The breadth of Ed Clark’s distinguished career, including serving as former President and CEO of TD Bank Group and his current position as Business Advisor to the Premier of Ontario, affords him unique insight into the private and public sectors. Torys lawyers Sharon Geraghty, Sophia Tolias and Konata Lake had the opportunity to interview Mr. Clark for his thoughts on Ontario business and the economy in the year ahead.
Q.Tell us about your new role as business advisor to the Premier of Ontario.
A.I do two things. First, I am an economist by training and have been involved in the economy through my experience running a large financial institution. This has allowed me to give the Premier my views on what works and what doesn’t work economically in Ontario. I can bring a business perspective to how businesses will react to different initiatives.
Second, I play a project management-type role on files with heavy private sector content. As someone from that community, I can help the Premier understand where they are coming from and how they may respond to an issue. I can also help the business community understand the political scene and how their voices can best be heard in that context.
Q.What are your top recommendations for Ontario business and the economy in the years ahead?
A.In the years ahead, we need to do two things. We have to work on making our existing economy more competitive, and as a country we must recognize how dramatically the world is changing. We need to shift our focus from manufacturing goods to innovation and services and become an exporter of innovative service products.
Q.You recommend an “outcome-based approach” to regulation. Can you tell us more about that?
A.To make our economy more competitive, we should address regulatory burden for businesses. Practically, an outcome-based approach involves government mobilizing the business community for input on what they are trying to accomplish, and then drafting rules to achieve that outcome at the lowest possible cost. This may involve looking at how other jurisdictions achieve highly desired outcomes through less burdensome regulation.
Q.What advice do you have for investors interested in highly regulated sectors?
A.If an investor interested in a highly regulated sector is choosing not to invest, it’s important that they engage with government to explain what is impeding the investment and challenge us to solve the problem. The business community needs to work with government to increase this type of interaction and tell us what we need to do to improve productivity and achieve overall business growth.
Q. Can you comment on the relationship between the private and public sectors?
A.Dynamics between the private and public sectors are changing. There is recognition in government that its resources are limited at the implementation phase. Governments should partner with the business sector where the business sector can deliver on a government priority more efficiently than the public sector. For example, Ontario has become a world leader in public-private partnerships―the PPP model helps dramatically reduce costs, allows projects to be delivered on time and leaves implementation to the private sector.
The bottom line is that the public and private sectors should play to their strengths: the private sector should focus on doing things, while the government should retain its public policy role deciding what should be done.
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