Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Canadian Business

In my post about Pixar opening in Vancouver, I spent some time talking about the nature of Canadian business. Today's Globe and Mail has an article about Canada's problems with innovation and productivity. Here is a quote that elaborates on what I'd written earlier, dealing with the small national market and the branch plant mentality that is satisfied to make things that are created elsewhere, as the forthcoming Vancouver Pixar shorts will be.

Canadian businesses just don't innovate enough. Too many don't have an internal culture of innovation. The domestic market is small and fragmented; not enough firms think internationally. International, for many, means the U.S., period, a rather dangerous myopia since that country is going to be economically crippled for a long time.

The report doesn't say so directly, but foreign ownership is a drag. Yes, a few Canadian branch plants get “world-product” mandates from head offices for certain products, but most don't. It's a scandal - and the blame is on the Canadian business class, too many members of which dream of getting rich by selling out to foreigners - that most mining companies are foreign-owned, the brewing business is gone, high-technology firms such as Cognos and Newbridge were swallowed up, and so on.

UPDATE: And further emphasizing the branch plant mentality, only in Canada would a government invest $23 million tax dollars in an American company that's going to make a film based on an idea from Britain and consider it a win for Ontario industry. I'm glad for the additional jobs, but this is not the way to strengthen Canadian animation in the long run. It's just more of the same.


Steve Schnier said...

So what are "we" going to do about the situation, Mark? There's a real complacency in this industry (the country is a whole other matter), where everyone waits for a leader to arise -- but no one is willing to step up to the plate themselves.
And then, when someone steps up to the plate there are the naysayers to contend with.

More direct to the topic: I'm working on a project where the plan is that we build the "property" with the aim of selling it in a few yesrs' time. This is part of the Exit Strategy and my investors are pleased with it. There's nothing wrong with selling the property if that's what your goal is.

Juanma said...

your article about pixar in vancouver
deals with a raw honest truth!
I was actually discussing that with a Studio Owner the other day.

Im Colombian ,I studied animation here in T.O and I'm trying to get people interested in a pitch idea...
and its not going so well...
Im even sadly thinking about going to the States.

warren said...

re Starz:

I guess it remains to be seen whether or not that flush of public money will help them stabilize enough to originate their own content and slow the local brain-drain in pre-production. I imagine production work is a pretty hand-to-mouth situation for most studios - thus the hiring binges and layoff purges we often see.

So many production houses have a five to ten year plan of getting out of the grind and becoming their own drivers. The catch is having the resources to manage it. I wonder if that's in the cards for Starz Toronto?

They now are closer to the R, and the B to get the R and more of it...but the G? Time will tell.

Coelasquid said...

Canadian business in general reminds me of a joke I heard once about one lobster fisherman asking another why he doesn't put a lid on his bucket to keep the lobsters in. The second fisherman replies that he doesn't have to worry about that because they're Canadian lobster, and whenever one crawls to the top the others pull it back down.