North of the world’s largest economy sits Canada, a wealthy, peaceful, nation that is often overlooked in discussions of the global economy and financial markets.
It’s a country that policymakers and investors ignore at their peril.
Contrary to popular belief, Canada is far more than its relationship with the U.S. In many ways, the nation runs counter to many global trends -- what Canada enjoys in abundance, much of the world lacks.
Here’s why everyone in the world should be paying more attention to Canada.
1) A Pulse For The Global Economy
The Canadian economy and financial markets are one of the most underutilized barometers of global economic activity.
When global growth exceeds 4 percent, Canada’s benchmark equity index, the S&P/TSX Composite, has tended to outperform the S&P 500.
And over the past ten years, the TSX/S&P Composite has moved in near-lockstep with the MSCI Emerging Markets index (in Canadian-dollar terms):
Canadian equities, one can infer, are similar to those in emerging markets –but without worries over political upheaval or accounting irregularities that cause investors to be wary over investing in those locales.
Given the Canadian equity index is heavily skewed towards commodity-producing companies, this relationship may not be all that surprising.
However, Canada’s connection to global economic trends is also manifested in far more subtle ways. Vancouver, for instance, is hailed as the “most Asian city outside of Asia,” and continues to attract hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the continent each year.
As such, luxury real estate valuations in this metropolitan area have come to be viewed as a proxy for Chinese capital flight.
2) Burgeoning Silicon North?
Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University, caused much consternation in Canada by recently quipping that the nation probably would not be a big player in the knowledge economy.
Nortel’s bankruptcy and BlackBerry’s fall from grace are scarred into the Canadian public consciousness, overshadowing a number of technology success stories.
Software and services provider Open Text Corporation, for instance, has increased adjusted revenues to $1.6-billion in 2014 from $152.5-million in 2002 to become the third-largest information technology company in Canada by market capitalization.
Meanwhile, Shopify, which has developed a widely-used e- commerce platform, is slated to go public on the New York Stock Exchange this week.
Sam Altman, chief executive officer of Y Combinator, paid tribute to the quality of the Canadian tech scene in a recent interview with the New York Times.
Altman, an alumnus of Stanford University, highlighted the University of Waterloo, located in Ontario, as a school whose students and graduates produced stand-out ideas.
Canadian-born Chad Rigetti is at the helm of one of those Y Combinator-backed firms. The founder and chief executive officer of Rigetti Computing attended the University of Regina before getting his PhD at Yale. He's currently developing quantum computing hardware in Berkeley, California, competing against the likes of Google, Microsoft, and IBM.
“In quantum computing, Waterloo has done great,” said Rigetti. “Whether that will lead to the development of significant enterprises is an open question.”
The venture capital network in Canada is nowhere near as robust as that of its neighbour to the south, so much so that OMERS Ventures, a branch of a pension fund, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, has become a key partner and source of funding for Canadian technology start-ups.
While Canadians might bemoan the recent loss of some promising tech firms, the basket of potentially viable projects under development in Canada, particularly Waterloo, provides an opportunity for deep-pocketed foreign venture capital firms to fill the funding void.