June 13, 2007

Canada Ranks 4th last in industrialized nations.


June 13th 2007.

OTTAWA - Canada is an environmental and innovation laggard, according to a major economic think-tank.

Canada gets a "D" and ranks the fourth worst - or 14th out of 17 -in both categories, the Conference Board of Canada says in a report, which ranks Canada's performance in those and four other areas against that of other industrial nations, including the United States.

"The report card paints a portrait of a mediocre performance that will not be good enough to meet the fundamental goal of a high and sustainable quality of life for all Canadians," according to a summary of the report, released Wednesday.

Canada scores poorly on the environment because it generates relatively more waste than any of the other countries, while its emissions of carbon dioxide per capita and as a share of its economic output are among the highest, the report says.

"On the environment, Canada is a yin-yang performer," it says, noting that it scores relatively well, or at least decently, in terms of water and air quality, and in protecting biodiversity.

"But we are dragged down by poor performance on climate change and waste generation," it says.

However, Canada ranked ahead of last place U.S., while Sweden, Finland, and Norway were the top three environmental performers.

Canada's poor score on innovation, meanwhile, reflects the fact that the country generates a relatively small share of its national income from new or significantly improved goods or services, that it has relatively few researchers, that Canadian scientists publish relatively few scientific articles, and that its investment in knowledge and knowledge based products, while about average, has stagnated over the past decade.

"We lag in investment in R and D, and in machinery and equipment, and we produce a lower share of graduates in science, engineering, and the trades," the report noted. "We are not keeping up either in the creation or in the commercialization of knowledge.

"This poor showing is a serious weakness in Canada's overall performance and an alarming portent for the future," it says. Canada lagged all the G-7 countries in innovation, which was led by Switzerland, the only country to get an "A".

The weakness in innovation is despite Canada offering among the most generous research and development tax subsidies, and having one of the best educated and skilled populations.

Canada gets an "A" for its delivery of a high quality education to its young people but does not produce enough post-graduates in the disciplines that support innovation, and fails to meet basic skills and literacy needs of its adult population, it said.

Canada, meanwhile, is a "B" performer in the other three areas - the economy, health and society, the report says, adding that those results underscore the board's warnings over the past decade that Canada is not keeping up with the world's top performers.

On the economy, where Ireland was tops and Italy was worst, Canada does well to average in most areas but fails in its ability to attract needed foreign investment.

"Canadians need to invest more in machinery and equipment to boost productivity," the Conference Board report says. "Governments need to invest more, much more, in physical infrastructure, reduce unnecessary regulation and lower effective tax rates on capital."

Canada's "health" performance, which scored eighth out of 17, is also a mixed bag with high scores for low death rates from the flu and pneumonia and public perceptions of health status, mid-level scores for male life expectancy, premature mortality, the suicide rate, and death from chronic diseases such as cancer, circulatory diseases and respiratory disease, and lower scores for female life expectancy and death from heart disease.

Canada, however, also gets two "Ds" -one for infant mortality and the other on death from diabetes. That "last score is alarming" and is a reason why children today may be the first in more than 100 years who can expect worse health care outcomes than their parents, the report says.

The report suggests Canadians need to adopt more healthy lifestyles and a health-care system that focuses more on prevention and management of chronic disease.

Switzerland was the highest ranked country in terms of health, while Ireland was the worst and the U.S. second worst.

On society, the U.S. was ranked the worst, but Canada's score is also hurt by its relatively poor performance in battling child poverty, and poverty among the working-age population, by low voter turnout, a lack of trust in political institutions, and a relatively high crime rate.

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