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Weakness of others pushes Canada higher in economic ranking

File photo of construction work being done on a condominium site in Toronto in 2012.

Deborah Baic/Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Canada can thank weaker performances among its peer countries for its move up to sixth place in the Conference Board's latest economic report card.

The Canadian economy is rated sixth out of 16 countries followed by the Conference Board's 2012 How Canada Performs: Economy report card.

Canada hangs onto its "B" grade and improves its ranking from 11th in the last prerecession report card, for 2008.

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But the think tank says that's primarily because of weakness among its peers and not a reflection of a high-performance Canadian economy.

"This 'B' grade should be viewed as relative because Canada fares poorly when compared with the top-performing economies. With the exception of inflation and employment growth, Canada ranks far below the best countries on all other economy indicators," Glen Hodgson, Conference Board senior vice-president and chief economist, said in a news release Thursday.

"Canada has been a chronic laggard on several important economic indicators – notably, labour productivity growth and competition for global investment. And even in areas where Canada has improved, other countries are still doing better."

The two top performers are Norway and Australia, both receiving "A" marks.

The United States ranks fourth despite its bumpy economic recovery and uncertain public finances, scoring a "B."

Canada's performance relative to its peers has deteriorated since the 1970s, says the board.

The income gap between Canada and the U.S., for example, tripled between 1980 and 2012.

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Income per capita in Canada is 84 per cent of income per capita in the U.S., according to the study.

In 2012, Canada's per capita income was $36,138 (U.S.), nearly $12,000 below that of Norway, the top ranked country.

Canada's worst grade in the eight categories examined is a "D" for inward foreign direct investment (FDI), but it's one of 13 countries to earn that score, largely because Belgium far outranks everyone else with eight times more inward FDI than its share of the global economy.

Generally speaking, Canada's "B" grade for 2012 in large part reflects the fiscal and financial uncertainty that has hurt much of the European Union, according to the report.

The report card:

1- Norway "A"

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2- Australia "A"

3- Belgium "B"

4- U.S. "B"

5- Austria "B"

6- Canada "B"

7- Sweden "C"

8- Switzerland "C"

9- Denmark "C"

10- Germany "C"

11- Japan "C"

12- Finland "D"

13- Netherlands "D"

14- U.K. "D"

15- France "D"

16- Ireland "D"

Canada's performance in detail:

Inflation: "A"

GDP growth: "B"

Labour productivity growth: "B"

Unemployment rate: "B"

Employment growth: "B"

Income per capita: "C"

Direct investment in other countries: "C"

Foreign direct investment in Canada: "D"

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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