by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In terms of the health crisis, Canada more successfully locked down its economy and shut in its people, containing the spread of the coronavirus better than the United States. However, the cost of Canada’s more extensive shutdown is unsustainable as firms struggle to deal with the growing backlog of bills and lagging revenues. The only viable near-term solution to the pandemic is the technological innovation of a vaccine.
Innovation is where the U.S. thrives and Canada lags. The conundrum for Canada is that the very characteristics that helped contain the spread of the pandemic are the opposite of what is needed for innovation. Quebec’s Deputy Prime Minister famously congratulated the population for its “obedience” to the lockdown and urged people to be “docile.” Docility and obedience are admirable qualities in a dog but do not form the basis of an entrepreneurial culture. …
… In contrast with Canada’s docility, a significant part of the U.S. population resisted government dictates and acted in ways that helped spread the virus. While harmful in the short term, this same rebelliousness helps fuel America’s enviable ability to innovate. After all, “Technological creativity, like all creativity, is an act of rebellion” according to the economic historian Joel Mokyr. Creative destruction means overturning the existing order with disruptive innovations that challenge the status quo and upset the established order.
Every major nation in the world, including Canada, wants to mimic the success of American technology behemoths such as Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, and Facebook. …
… While envious of U.S. technology, Canada struggles to create its own culture of innovation. Part of the reason is the challenge that innovation presents to the established order — and in Canada entrenched interests are adept at using institutional power to resist change and preserve the status quo.