The sale and breakup of a flagship technology company is a reoccurring theme in Canadian business. But this time is different. If BlackBerry Ltd.goes, there is no ready replacement. That’s a telling switch from the situation Canada faced with the sale of Newbridge Networks in 2000 and the demise of Nortel Networks in 2009. More than a decade of declining business investment in research and development has left Canada without an obvious BlackBerry successor. Despite bright spots in Waterloo, Ont., and Ottawa, the country’s performance on most of the important benchmarks of innovation has been deteriorating for years.
This is another post in my Industry Analysis series on the Alberta Bitumen Bubble and The Canadian Economy, and Canada’s strategic options. In a clear sign that the Harper government’s anxiety over the tars sands is increasing exponentially, the rhetoric from the Conservative government has become ever more shrill and less rational in tone. Rumors have abounded for some time that Harper himself is in fervent denial of climate change, but his PR handlers have cautioned him not to personally come “out of the proverbial closet” on climate change because it would cost Conservatives votes, the thing they care most about. But this stance appears to be changing, as Canada’s “natural resource curse”, consequent economic downturn, Canada’s failure to invest in innovation, and national productivity crisis converge on the Harper government. An ominous parallel can be drawn with South African President Thabo Mbeki’s official denial that HIV did not cause AIDS, which became an international embarrassment for South Africa. implications for all Canadians are immense.
The Canadian media (CBC, Globe & Mail, Canadian Business) have been buzzing with analyses of Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s pronouncement last month that the “Bitumen Bubble,” is now crashing down on the Alberta economy, and potentially the entire Canadian economy. The Alberta budget released last Thursday, March 7, acknowledged a $6.2 Billion deficit from this year, and “even larger declines in the next several years,” due to forecasts for significant price decreases for “Western Canada Select” (WCS), the market term for Alberta oil sands oil. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty echoed the impact of reduced oil sands revenue on the federal budget, by warning of significant cutbacks in federal spending as well. The impact of this sudden change in the prospects for the Canadian petroleum industry and for government oil tax revenues, will likely also have serious implications for the BC economy, jobs growth, business investment, consumer spending: essentially the Canadian economy as a whole will suffer.