Since 1996, the annual report has compared Canada’s performance to 23 other member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development across a broad range of socio-economic indicators.
“While the Canada of 2005 is, in many respects, a better place than the Canada of 1996, our relative performance has slipped,” the report stated.
Among the 24 OECD countries, Canada ranked 12th in economy, below the United States, Korea, and several Scandinavian countries. This marks a significant drop from last year’s sixth place finish.
According to the report, Canada has failed to keep pace in the growing competition for global trade and investment.
Western economics professor Michael Parkin said the average income in Canada has been decreasing slightly over the past few years, but no one knows exactly why.
“Lots of people point to the high level of taxation in Canada, but no one really knows if that’s true,” he said.
Parkin said comparison statistics are influenced by Canada’s relative size and diversity.
“If you compared Ontario with Holland, Ontario would come out ahead. If you compared Canada with Holland, we might come out behind,” he said.
Canada placed 10th in health sector rankings. The primary areas of concern addressed by the report include a shortage of healthcare professionals and a high infant mortality rate.
Parkin suggested Canada’s public healthcare system is linked to subpar economic performance.
“Canada is unique in not permitting people to pay privately for health care if they so choose, and that causes problems,” Parkin said. “That’s why we have poor overall health services, because we don’t allow people to supplement their healthcare costs privately, as all other countries do.”
“In almost every case we’ve done benchmarking on the Canadian health care system we’re a middle-of-the-pack performer,” said Dr. Glen Roberts of the Conference Board of Canada, adding Canada should look to higher-ranked countries for solutions to health care problems.
“This isn’t a report card; it’s a learning tool,” he added.
In the society category, the report pinpointed above-average homicide and arrest rates across the country, which have been reflected in London as well.
“In this 2005 calendar year to date we have had 13 homicides . . . which is a 267 per cent increase over 2004,” said Amanda Pfeffer, public information officer with the London Police Service.
“I personally have heard of extreme levels of violence in Toronto, but I know that the problems in Toronto are not unique. We are seeing the same problems in [London],” she added.