Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Canada and Free Enterprise

I was staying at a hotel in Canada when I noticed a sticker on the door of the bed and breakfast. The sticker said that the hotel was the member of a group that supported "private enterprise". This isn't something that you'd typically see in the United States - there might be a Better Business Bureau sticker but it is normally a given that free enterprise and capitalism is the norm in the United States (although surely the public sector is too large here, even they tend to recognize that private enterprise is needed to "fund" their programs).

This thought stuck with me throughout my travels and helped me to "see" the country. For in Canada, their public sector is larger than the United States. Health care is run by the government and the country supports a higher overall tax burden to fund these levels of services.

Not only is the "official" public sector bigger, many of the most important elements of the private sector are natural resources firms that develop oil & gas, hydroelectricity, mining, and paper products. While these industries are technically private industries, they are heavily regulated with rules and specific taxes and export clauses so that they on the scale of "public" to "private" they are far down nearer the "public" end of the ledger.

While in Canada I picked up a copy of the Toronto Globe and Mail. The tag line on the Toronto Globe and Mail is "Canada's National Newspaper" so this isn't a provincial newspaper such as you might see in Atlantic Canada. This paper would be the equivalent of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal in the United States and I found it to be a well-written and organized paper.

The picture that you see above is one of the pages from the Career section from their July 18, 2007 paper. For major Canadian companies this is where they would likely take out the large advertisements for their executive and high level appointments, as they do in the United States in the Wall Street Journal. This is the highest profile advertising for employees in Canada.

While perusing the section, I noticed with astonishment that it seemed like most of the positions are for government positions of one sort or another (health care, ministers, managers, universities, school districts, etc...) and there weren't many of the "private enterprise" employers at all. I picked up the paper and put it in my suitcase (this is why it is all wrinkled in the photo) and took it home. When I had a few minutes I went through all of the large box ads and counted them up and classified them into two main categories - public enterprise and private enterprise (I did not include the one ad for overseas work). The totals were:

Public Enterprise - 24 advertisements
Private Enterprise - 17 advertisements

While this is not a scientific sample (one day on a major newspaper) it says quite a statement about how endemic the public enterprise is for Canada, and how much of an uphill battle that private enterprise faces.

I think that the hotel was right to support that free enterprise group... they are in the minority.

2 comments:

gerry from valpo said...

Canada is sure screwey. I have spent a lot of time in the Northwestern Ontario bush fishing and hunting. Been to Toronto on bidness too. I love Toronto. It's like a clean Chicago with a strong British architectural influence. Hy's of Canada was a great steakhouse. Is it still there?

The Ontario L.C.O.B (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) is a real trip. The gummint controls all liquor distribution and retail sales. Clean, well-lit stores with no display advertising, almost sterile.

But try walking through begging drunken Ojibwe's to the entrance of a remote Ontario L.C.B.O and you feel like you are right back in Chicago!

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