When difficult times bring the weight of the world on their shoulders, Canadian citizens find a way to spring back with a contagious national pride. Canada's multilingual and multicultural citizens tout a quality of life that keeps them happy, healthy, safe, environmentally conscious, and educated, and surveys consistently reflect the country's ability to maintain these attributes.
Invest in Canada spotlights the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) ranking of Canada as having the best overall quality of life among the G-7 countries, as well as Canada's leadership in providing equal opportunities for individuals, being the safest place to live and conduct business, and having the most fairly administered judicial system.
The Reputation Institute's Country RepTrak ™, an annual study measuring the public perceptions of 50 countries around the world, ranks Canada as having the highest reputation ranking among 50 countries based on several indicators, including a good quality of life, a safe place to live, an advanced economy, an effective government, and an appealing environment.
Boosting Quality of Life
Canada offers a variety of climates and scenery and accompanying recreational and cultural opportunities - from locations on the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Arctic oceans; from tree-filled forests to towering Rocky Mountains; from lakes and rivers to bucolic countryside and bustling metropolises. Besides the beauty of the landscape, the Canadian government invests in projects that boost quality of life across many categories.
Research projects at some of the many higher education institutions throughout the country are targeted toward quality-of-life improvements. In January, The Canada Foundation for Innovation announced $33 million in support funding to 132 science and technology research projects in 31 communities to "improve the quality of life of Canadians and strengthen the economy," according to the Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear. Among the funding recipients are the University of Alberta for sustainable techniques for oil extraction and refinement toward environmental stewardship; the University of Toronto for a more personalized approach to cancer treatment; the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec for methods to improve the safety of bridges and overpasses; and the University of Saskatchewan for working with prairie farmers to diversify their income sources through agro-forestry. And Nova Scotia's Dalhousie University's Social Media Lab is helping businesses, government, and not-for-profit organizations understand how to engage Canadians through the Internet.
Central to Business Success
Brad Duguid, Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Innovation, notes that a productive work force is attracted to areas that pay attention to quality-of-life issues, and this is, therefore, one of the central factors to the province's business successes. "Great schools, first rate healthcare, and safe and livable communities are tremendously important to employees and their families. We often hear from businesses that quality of life [in Ontario] is a big factor in helping them attract and retain talent," he says.
Once citizens earn their wages, keeping their funds safe and growing through a sound banking system is also a priority. Invest in Canada notes, "While banks around the world collapsed and inter-bank transactions froze in the wake of the global financial crisis, not a single Canadian bank required a bailout.Six of the top-10 safest banks in North America are Canadian institutions, according to Global Finance magazine [2009 and 2010 studies]."
A recent move by a long-term Canadian company reflected a focus on both business and quality of life. Massilly, a France-based manufacturer and supplier of metal twist closures and sealing machines for the food and beverage industry operating in Mississauga, Ontario, since 1996, recently needed to relocate its production facility. A large part of the decision to stay within the province was based on quality of life for the company's employees and their families.
Garnet E. Lasby, president of Massilly North America Inc., explains, "We have developed a wonderful, productive, and loyal work force. When it became necessary to relocate, we looked at locations [near] Mississauga [and] Southwest Ontario, and even went over the border into the U.S. where there are some very competitive economic areas and incentives offered, and we looked at off-shoring as well.
Because we wanted to retain our work force, we decided to locate as locally as we could. We didn't want to get too far away from our base where our employees lived, but we also needed access to our markets from a business perspective. Our work force needed to retain access to a competitive tax environment, to the major centers in this area, to the U.S., and those advantages, but to still live in Canada."
The firm purchased a 210,000-square-foot industrial facility in Branford, 75 km from the original location. Lasby adds, "We have had enormous success in retaining our work force who continues to commute even longer distances, and we give great incentives to continue to grow with us." He says the firm "values a hard work ethic, but a balanced work-life style; we place high value on employees' fair and decent wages and good benefits, and generous vacations in the European tradition. We have a very good legislative environment in Ontario, and it is a safe area to live, work, and run a business."
The firm plans to be fully relocated by the end of the year. The previous plant employed 60 people in approximately 150,000 square feet. He adds that the firm actively plans to expand production capacity and is looking at new lines of business after the relocation.
Investing in Well Being
Besides being wealthy and wise, Canada also strives to keep its citizens healthy with government-funded healthcare. Canada's national health insurance program, framed by the Canada Health Act, stresses the underlying Canadian values of equity and solidarity. According to Health Canada, the program is "designed to ensure that all residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services, on a prepaid basis." The national program is composed of 13 interlocking provincial and territorial health insurance plans, all of which share certain common features and basic standards of coverage.
The Canadian government continues to delve into the details that foster quality of life in the country. While Gross National Product (GNP) is usually a harbinger of the future, a decade ago, Canadian "thinkers," according to the CIW Executive Summary, felt that other parameters should be explored to properly reflect both the health of the economy and the citizenry. A comprehensive composite index dubbed the Canadian Index of Well-Being (CIW) was created, derived of 64 indicators measured over a period from 1994 to 2008.
The index measures eight specific categories - standard of living, health, the quality of the environment, education, time use, community vitality, democratic engagement, and the state of leisure and culture - to provide a much more complete picture than narrow economic measures like GDP, explains the CIW Network, an independent, nonpartisan group based at the University of Waterloo within the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. The first CIW Index released in 2011 found that well being improved in five areas: living standards, community vitality, democratic engagement, education, and healthy populations; but declined in environment, time use, and leisure and culture. As noted by the CIW, the index gives the government and businesses a chance to be "responsive to the needs and values of Canadians. And, it will empower citizens to hold government accountable for achieving progress."