The North American nation has vast potential, yet underperforms on the global stage
Canada rarely makes the global news. When it does, it is often in reference to the exploits of Canadian entertainers — Justin Bieber, Céline Dion and Drake. For a country of about 40mn people, roughly the population of California, that is not a bad return on celebrity icons. But while the country may exceed expectations in the pop and rap arena, it underwhelms on the international economic stage, relative to its vast potential.
By land mass it is the second-largest country in the world, with the longest coastline. Bookended by the vast Pacific and Atlantic oceans it has enormous trading advantages, alongside access to the largely untapped Arctic to its north. It is a net energy exporter; it has the third-largest proven oil reserves and is the fifth-largest producer of natural gas — but it also boasts large deposits of critical minerals vital to the green energy transition. And, of course, it borders the world’s largest economy.
By any measure, Canada’s geography suggests it could be an economic powerhouse. But few ever talk about it in such terms. By purchasing power parity, its economy is ranked 15th globally by size, behind the likes of Turkey, Italy and Mexico. The OECD has forecast Canadian per capita gross domestic product growth up to 2060 to be the lowest among advanced nations.
Canada boomed at the turn of the 20th century. Settlements grew, industrialisation was in full swing, investment rolled in from the UK and US. In 1904 Wilfrid Laurier, then prime minister, predicted “the 20th century shall be the century of Canada and Canadian development”.
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