Quoting the classic Aretha Franklin song, Pupatello said that the manufacturing industry needs some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and that it is up to the industry to go out and get the respect it deserves.
Manufacturing has the biggest supply chain and, therefore, has the biggest impact on the economy, she said, likening the industry to Canadian hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
“We are the Wayne Gretzky of the economy, and we should make sure that everyone understands to protect your best player.”
How? Pupatello encouraged manufacturers to let government know what their most pressing challenges are.
The biggest challenges facing Canadian manufacturers — maintaining market share, Canadian dollar strength, attracting and retaining labour, developing new markets, to name a few — all have something to do with public policy, she said.
“Public policy can actually impact the greatest challenges that manufacturers face. Now, surely, if half of everything that they face can actually be impacted by public policy, what role do you have to tell them what that is, or what that public policy should look like?”
Similarly, many of the most important factors influencing making investment decisions can also be impacted by public policy, she continued.
“If most of the reasons that people make investment decisions are actually factors that can be influenced by public policy at some level — whether that’s local, provincial, federal — then we have a responsibility to be sure they know what that public policy will be,” Pupatello said. “We can’t just wait until something has hit a crisis point and then all of a sudden we flock to whatever government level, ‘here’s my one big thing.’ Instead there’s got to be this ongoing plate that says this is what the sector needs overall,” and you prioritize it. If they ask why, she said, "you say, 'Who is the Wayne Gretzky of the economy,' and you tell them why.”
Pupatello said that government, too, has to promote manufacturing, adding that she would do cartwheels if she saw the Canadian Prime Minister with another world leader, for example, selling Bombardier. Canada, she said, has this shyness about taking on the products that we make so well and selling them around the world, and we need to get over it.
CMTS is taking place at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont., until October 3. For more information, visit www.cmts.ca.