Institute Releases Fourth Working Paper

Released September 4th, 2003

Attitudes are not the barrier to closing Ontario’s prosperity gap

Sudbury—Ontarians’ attitudes towards competition, innovation, business and risk-taking are not roadblocks to closing the prosperity gap. That is the key conclusion of Working Paper 4, Striking similarities: Attitudes and Ontario’s prosperity gap released today by the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity.

The research was conducted as part of the Institute’s efforts to understand the causes of Ontario’s $5,905 per capita prosperity gap - the amount Ontario’s Gross Domestic Product per person trails the median performance of a peer group comprising the largest US states and Quebec. The Institute engaged Ontario-based research firm The Strategic Counsel to survey attitudes of the general public, business communities, and business leaders in both Ontario and the peer states.

“We expected to find some significant differences in attitudes in areas like our aspirations, our views on risk and innovation, and whether or not we think competition is a good thing,” said Roger Martin, Chairman of the Institute and Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. “The hypothesis was that less favourable attitudes on the part of the Ontario public and business people would help explain why we invest less and why our economy is less productive.”

But the results were surprisingly similar. “In response after response, we keep seeing how similar our attitudes are to our counterparts in the US.” The study found no discernable differences in how we view the role of businesses and their leaders, risk taking and security, the factors that drive economic success, competition, and other areas related to economic success. While there are some small differences between the public and business people, these groups share similar attitudes across borders. “As a general conclusion”, said Martin, “attitudinal differences don’t explain the prosperity gap between Ontario and its peer group.” In fact, Ontarians’ attitudes are just as likely to lead to productivity gains as those of their peers.

There were a few differences, however. Most significantly, the survey indicated that Ontarians’ attitudes towards post-secondary education may be a hindrance to prosperity. The survey identified a significant difference in the advice respondents in the public and business community would give to young persons on the level of education they should attain. Ontarians are more likely to recommend a college diploma as the highest level of education to achieve; their counterparts in the US peer group are more likely to recommend a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

According to Martin, “Given the importance of post-secondary education, particularly at higher degree levels, to personal economic success and overall productivity, these attitudinal differences matter. The result is that Ontario is forgoing potential for increasing GDP per capita and overall prosperity gains.”

The survey also revealed that attitudes towards the economic benefits of immigration are more positive in Ontario.

Finally responses indicate that Ontarians attach greater importance to celebrating success - expressing a greater likelihood to take pride in local companies’ success and attaching greater importance to celebrating business success stories. “Contrary to what many may think, this shows that Ontarians do not shun others’ success; they embrace it,” said Martin.

Following today’s release, the Institute is continuing its research work into the causes of and possible remedies for the prosperity gap. The Task Force will publish results in its Second Annual Report to the people of Ontario this fall.

About the Institute
The Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity is an independent not-for-profit organization established in 2001 to serve as the research arm of Ontario’s Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress. The Institute is supported through the Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity & Innovation. Working papers published by the Institute are primarily intended to inform the work of the Task Force. In addition, they are designed to raise public awareness and stimulate debate on a range of issues related to competitiveness and prosperity.

About the Task Force
The creation of the Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress was announced in Ontario’s April 2001 Speech from the Throne. Roger L. Martin, Dean of the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, is the Chairman.

The mandate of the Task Force is to measure and monitor Ontario’s competitiveness, productivity and economic progress compared to other provinces and U.S. states, and to report to the public on a regular basis. Members of the Task Force were announced on October 17, 2001 and details can be found at www.CompeteProsper.ca

It is the aspiration of the Task Force to have a significant influence in increasing Ontario’s competitiveness, productivity and capacity for innovation. This, they believe, will help ensure continued success in the creation of good jobs, increased prosperity and a high quality of life for all Ontarians. The Task Force intends to seek breakthrough findings from their research and to propose significant innovations in public policy in order to stimulate businesses, governments and educational institutions to take action.

The complete Working Paper can be downloaded directly from: http://www.competeprosper.ca/public/wp04.pdf

For more information contact James Milway, Executive Director of the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity at 416.920.1921 ext. 222.