Striking similarities: Attitudes and Ontario’s prosperity gap

Released September 2003

The research on Ontarians’ attitudes towards competition, innovation, business and risk-taking was conducted as part of the Institute’s efforts to understand the causes of Ontario’s $5,905 per capita prosperity gap versus a peer group of US states.

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. The results show that Ontarians’ attitudes are not roadblocks to closing the prosperity gap.

“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. 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. 

There were some 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 receive; their counterparts in the 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.”

Topics: Business growth and innovation