Uncompetitive policy flagged

A senior Maple Leaf Foods Inc. official says Canadian policies, programs and regulations are hurting economic growth and competitiveness.

Rory McAlpine, senior vice-president, government and industry relations, made the remarks during a speech at the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society policy summit held in Ottawa Jan. 23- 24 during a panel discussion on enhancing Canada’s agri-food competitiveness.

McAlpine argued investing in technology for manufacturing or packaging, such as those being made as part of the company’s chicken processing facility being built in London, Ont., are costly and require, “global scale operations and market share to achieve the revenues and manage the expense.”

He suggested doing so is “simply more challenging” due to Canada’s size, small population, construction costs and a “history of economic policies and provincial attitudes that serve to limit or equalize scale, thus constraining labour productivity and competitiveness.”

McAlpine told the audience the regulatory environment in Canada is “grossly uncompetitive,” noting uncompetitive labour laws, payroll taxes in certain provinces, utility costs, infrastructure bottlenecks and complex municipal zoning and permitting processes all contribute to an impaired performance of value-added packaged goods manufacturers.

“Higher environmental requirements and now carbon pricing” were also mentioned.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is spending a combined $1 billion of capital on its London facility and a plant-based foods facility in Shelbyville, Indiana, allowing the company to offer a perspective on the regulatory environment in Canada compared to the United States.

To that end, McAlpine noted construction costs are 20 to 25 percent higher in Canada due to factors such as land costs, labour rates, climate-related building standards and market concentration in the supply of key building materials like cement and steel.

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