Young Economics.

Some Canadian Trivia

with 2 comments

Ok, ready?  What was the first invention that got Bombardier, our well known transportation company, off the ground?  Here’s a hint:  it hasn’t anything to do with the planes and the trains they’re known for.

Answer: The Snowmobile!

Joseph-Armand Bombardier built his first snowmobile as a teenager, and soon perfected the basic concept: steerable skis in front of a tracked drivetrain. The SkiDoo, a smaller recreational snowmobile for the mass market, followed in 1959. Bombardier’s company became a large transportation manufacturer, specializing in airplanes and trains.

The quote comes from a cool feature the Globe and Mail put together – they highlight the top tech innovations that have come out of Canada. Link: Canada’s tech history.

It’s a little scary however how the most current invention on the list is the blackberry, which came out in 1996.  I guess we’ve been too busy figuring how to get oil out of sand to do anything else.

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Written by jk

August 2, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Just News, Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Neat list. As you say, it is symbolically interesting that the most recent invention is from 1996. That seems consistent with the statistical evidence of the big productivity slowdown in Canada since the year 2000. You’ve probably seen the latest report on that, released by Statistics Canada this morning: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/090804/dq090804a-eng.htm. The executive summary of the report says that the growing Canada-US productivity gap is driven mainly by much lower total factor productivity growth in Canada. TFP includes technical innovation.

    Yesterday I read an interview with John Manley: http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/07/24/innovation-isn%E2%80%99t-in-canada%E2%80%99s-dna/ He says:

    “I don’t think you could say that innovation is deeply in the DNA of our Canadian business enterprises,” [Manley] said. “We have built prosperity, up to and including this decade, on a fairly basic paradigm: we are rich in natural resources. We’re good at harvesting them. And we have built a manufacturing and processing sector, and to some degree a services sector, which has been quite successful in exploiting access to the U.S. market.”

    Is the Canadian business culture inherently less conducive to innovation? Are Canadian business people less capable of turning innovative ideas into viable businesses? Did Canadian exporting firms (particularly in manufacturing) simply become complacent during the years of a low-valued Canadian dollar? Or is it something else?

    Alex

    August 4, 2009 at 5:33 pm

  2. Great links Alex. I think the dollar has a lot to do with our problems, but for the most part our lack of innovation comes from an abundance of natural resources in face of a strained global supply.

    Income prospect is the motivation behind investment decisions. For Canada, income levels get better when either our terms of trade improve or we become more productive. Since 2000, commodity prices have exploded as China, and arguably the rest of the BRIC, have begun to industrialize and develop. Something we already know how to produce is becoming more valuable. Investors would be attracted to use their money to duplicate older techniques that are proven and less risky. Unfortunately, this eats away at the funds and productive inputs available for other sectors of the economy while not helping us develop our technological capabilities.

    This seems like a scenario that could explain the productivity decline. I’d love to see a time series on the share of Canadian investment expenditures funneled into resource extraction. I bet you’d find it has risen considerably recently. It would also be great if someone could figure out how much of investment goes into duplication – basing new pursuits on proven methods – versus innovative creation. Would countries with scarce resources push more money into pattern investments?

    jk

    August 8, 2009 at 10:54 am


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