Where is Canada going from here? Only an Entrepreneurial Revival Will Save the Day

By Mark Borkowski

Canada’s needs are rapidly changing as the ability to put food on our own tables diminishes. Foreign debt investors are supplying the capital to provide us with our bare necessities based on our potential to provide a return at some future date. The longer this future date is pushed, the deeper and deeper our debts become, leaving Canada with an extremely bleak tomorrow. Our need is to emerge from this vicious cycle of debt financing by creating a culture that takes pride in being self-sufficient. Currently, the opposite is true.

There must be a cultural revolution that returns our destiny to Canadian hands. Cries of regionalism, language rights, and ethnic superiority will take a back seat to the universal culture of entrepreneurism. Entrepreneurs are hard-driven human beings with a vision. This vision is of how things ought to be. Petty squabbles because of various historical origins become meaningless when the vision becomes the advancement of humanity. Whether or not one particular entrepreneur’s vision is the right one can be determined after the project is completed; however, we have a moral responsibility to allow the individual to create. It is this type of permissive and inspirational culture that will allow Canada to advance and compete on equal footing with the rest of the world.

There are many elements to this need. While governments are arguing back and forth as to which sector of the economy needs more education, it should be realized that a more educated and trained economy needs less government. Innovation is a creative process that suffocates in large government bureaucracies. Many transportation entrepreneurs find it impossible to create and adapt quickly to changing environmental conditions while governments are creating a less reward oriented marketplace. As taxes and financial returns decrease, the incentive to work and create curtails.

Where government should get involved is not with the attempt at creating, but at the fostering of creation. This would entail creating an environment where ideas, capital, and labour are located in a close geographic proximity to one another and motivated to flow freely between these three key elements. Entrepreneurs are motivated people that thrive off the fruits of their labour. As a country, we need to foster their growth in numbers by educating, training, and allowing their growth. Without an entrepreneurial revolution, which will return a responsibility for our actions, Canada will continue to fall into the hands of outsiders.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of all invention. Canada has not needed to create. For years, we have relied on our natural resources to purchase the innovation of other countries that foster the type of culture that we now need to engender. As our natural resources continue to dwindle, the urgency of our needs become more and more apparent.

Perhaps with the universal goal of growth and betterment for Canada, we will be able to see past our regional, linguistic, and ethnic differences to provide, at long last, a unified front determined to take us into the next century. Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs. First, we must establish a mould that can be copied and re-used by the next individual that wishes to develop a wealth creating product. Once our methodology for success has been established, it can be used again and again. Until we establish this type of procreative culture, Canada will never be a front runner in the race for success. We will not even be in the race.

With the fall of communism and the devaluation of political differences, Canada’s role as an economic leader is all but over. The addition of the Russian, Chinese, and various other countries to the list of viable and profitable markets has lowered us considerably on the international economic ladder. Action must be taken now!

Commitment to innovation is a long-term pledge to support it both financially and morally through education, training, and cultural backing. What we have today in Canada is a society determined to get the most out of life today with no regard for the result tomorrow. North America, in general, has increased its focus on the short-term gains which do not result in true benefits to society from science-based innovation. We have become a society with the rape and pillage mentality that lives for the moment.

As no single individual or institution is responsible for getting us to this point of parasitic existence, no single individual or institution can free us from it. Many though, will play crucial roles. Conservative financial institutions must open themselves up to the support of new ventures, especially those that deal with technological innovation. Areas such as this sustain economies by producing internationally desirable goods and simultaneously encourage specialized education and training. It is difficult to pick-up a newspaper or magazine today without locating a story about a Canadian entrepreneur, with an award winning product, who cannot find financing. This must stop.

Drastic changes in our ways of thinking must be undertaken. We are falling out of control and the federal government is convinced that only they can accomplish needed projects because the private sector is unable to do things without their hands held. In actuality, the private sector has abused the system and the government has done little to prevent their continued abuse. If the private sector knows from experience that the government will foot the bill if they cry loud enough, why should they pay? Canadians desperately need to re-instill a pride in their ability to accomplish large scale projects without bringing in the government. When we bring in the government, we are actually bringing in foreigners via debt financing and saying we can’t do it… help us. Is this what Canada has become?

Somewhere along the line, the notion has been adopted that technology entrepreneurship threatens jobs and the environment. The rebuttal to this argument seems archaic but individuals must constantly be reminded that we must change with the times. Time waits for no one.

Fortunately, we may not be as far from where we should be as it may seem. In terms of research, Canada is one of the most organized and efficient countries in the world. It is the development of technological innovation that is sorely lacking. The gap is wide, but we must not be discouraged by the distance that must be travelled. The rewards for making the arduous journey are plentiful and not only in monetary terms.

Examples of success from this fostering of entrepreneurs – essentially in technological innovation – is abundant. The rise of Germany and Japan is an ever present example, but perhaps a more shocking example is the fall from glory of the United States for the abandonment of their original values. Talented, hard-working, and innovative individuals drive national economies. Canada lacks an abundance of this type of individual. The question then becomes how do we get from where we are, to where we want to be, a country driven by entrepreneurs who create a grand vision for our future?

Education is constantly thrown out as a panacea for all Canada’s woes. The term must be qualified to refine its intent. If we currently expanded our post-secondary institutions to include another five million individuals, we would be no better off tomorrow. Our education system is providing us with a great deal of unnecessary skills. Emphasis must be placed from early on, that there is a great deal of merit in specialized education focusing on the applied arts. Apprenticeship programs and “useable” skills are still in shortage. Students are graduating with no real knowledge of how they will fit in to their particular fields. A vast majority of them have no practical skills in their areas of study. Any successful entrepreneurial culture must bridge the current gap that exists between industry and education.

The important point to take out of all of this is that innovation is no key to success without a support structure behind it to protect the product through the minefield of devastating obstacles. Creativity itself is best suited to small groups in a non-constrictive environment; however, we must be able to make the most of our ideas in an environment that encourages commercialization. Entrepreneurs benefit from the creative culture and we benefit from the spin-off benefits that the innovation creates. We must be prepared to act when the window of opportunity is opened.

As Canadians we should be taught to idolize those individuals who started with nothing and made something of themselves and others along the way. Manipulators of wealth only look to create good for their own sake.

Innovation is the key to sustainable development and affluence. When we are able to provide entrepreneurs in high risk arenas, such as technological innovation, with the low cost capital injections necessary to establish new products or services in global markets within a pro-entrepreneurial environment, we will prosper. This dream must become a reality if we are to survive; there are no ‘in-betweens’. Every corner of this great country will be responsible for the success or failure of this entrepreneurial revolution and every area of the economy, be it government, industry, or financial institutions will have to contribute to its well-being.

Mark Borkowski is president of Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corp. Mercantile is a mid-market M&A brokerage firm in Toronto. Contact: www.mercantilemergersacquisitions.com