Maintaining transparency in federal government investments in private businesses is important to avoid “taxpayer blowback”, says International Trade Minister Mary Ng, who made the comments while taking part in a World Economic Forum (WEF) panel discussion.
“Canadians care because this is about growing the middle class. It’s about growing jobs. It’s about new, innovative, intangible companies in today’s marketplace who are part of communities,” Ng said on Jan. 19 while attending an annual WEF meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
Ng was responding to a question posed by a member of the audience.
“In cases where you cannot completely de-risk the [government] investment—for example, in early-stage companies—are you worried about taxpayer blowback from that if things fail?” the audience member asked.
“Transparency … is absolutely key in the way that we make the investment commitments,” Ng replied, adding that budgets and “very lengthy contribution agreements and just a range of modalities” are examples of how the federal government informs Canadians of spending measures.
“A transparency on outcomes as well, not just transparency of the investment,” she added.
Ng also said that when private companies partner with the government through investments, each party takes on “some of that shared risk” and these initiatives in return bring about economic growth and community growth and create jobs across the country.
“All of that means a greater social cohesion in our country,” she said. “The investments are directly tied to the opportunity for Canada and for our communities to create jobs.”
Ng’s comments come just over a month following a ruling by Canada’s Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion that found her guilty of breaking federal conflict-of-interest laws after her office awarded a contract to one of her friends.
The WEF panel discussion Ng spoke at was titled “Bricks or Clicks: What Kind of Investment do Economies Need?”
She was joined by British journalist Martin Wolf, Holcim CEO Jan Jenisch, India’s Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw, and Khalid Humaidan, CEO of the Bahrain Economic Development Board.
“Many countries now invest more in intangible assets, such as IP, than in tangible assets like buildings and machinery, with consequences for innovation, productivity, market concentration and more,” read the panel’s description.
“What does the rise of the intangible economy mean and how should policy-makers respond?”
World Economic Forum
Ng is currently attending the WEF’s 2023 annual meeting in Davos along with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who also sits on the WEF board of trustees.
Freeland participated in a WEF panel discussion on Jan. 18, at which she said G7 countries can help Ukraine by giving the country more military and economic assistance.
“We can help Ukraine win, clearly, definitively. And if we do that, if that happens this year, you know it as well as I do, Fareed, that would be a huge boost to the global economy,” Freeland said, referring to Fareed Zakaria of CNN, the host of the panel titled “Restoring Security and Peace.”
Questions sent by The Epoch Times to various federal department, about the size of the federal government’s delegation to Davos, the costs associated with the trip, and government’s main objectives in making the trip, have so far gone unanswered.
Noé Chartier and The Canadian Press contributed to this report.