Does Canada Lack an Entrepreneurial Culture?

More than ever, our kids will have to create their own careers.
Jobs in middle management, 30-year positions with IBM, lifetime gigs protected by tenure–these are industrial-era dinosaurs that are slowly disappearing.

And according to Scott Stirrett in this Globe and Mail article, our national economy is in jeopardy because we’re not cultivating an entrepreneurial culture.

According to Stirrett,

An entrepreneurial culture, which encourages people to identify and act upon opportunities to create value for others, is essential to improving a country’s quality of life. Entrepreneurial behaviour creates economic growth and innovation, which enhances our capacity to tackle challenges such as an aging population and climate change. But Canada’s insufficiently entrepreneurial culture poses an existential risk to our country’s future.

Stirrett supports his argument with data from the Fraser Institute. According to their 2021 paper, “Canada’s Faltering Business Dynamism and Lagging Innovation“, we score poorly in surveys that measure entrepreneurial values, especially the acceptance of competition and teaching kids to be independent.

The good news is that it’s safer and easier than ever to become an entrepreneur. And even if our kids don’t want to control their own fate, teaching them about public speaking; selling their service; confidence; and finances will help them in ANY job. What’s the harm?

One reason entrepreneurship isn’t taught in schools is that most teachers are beneficiaries of the old industrial model. Our schools are heavily unionized; most teachers are hired fore life; and raises are awarded by tenure and collective bargaining. This is simply the path that most teachers in Canada know and enjoy–so it’s the path promoted to their students. It’s natural to do so–but it’s not a path that will be available to most of their students.

Outside of school, kids hear messages deriding successful people. Some would call this “Tall Poppy Syndrome”, in which the most successful entrepreneurs are torn down because they stand out from the collective. In the US, these same standouts are more likely to be celebrated. As the journalist Paul Wells points out, “In Canada, if you run a successful business, you’re made to feel as if you’ve done something wrong.” I’ve experienced this myself–though, thankfully, not often.

In my experience, this message is most likely delivered in the home. The notion that a successful businessperson must have “cheated” or taken their wealth from others is most likely to come from a parent. But this misunderstanding is often rooted in a basic misunderstanding of what “wealth” really means. For generations, our education about money and finance and success has come from Disney movies and sitcoms instead of our schools. People who understand money take on less debt; celebrate entrepreneurship; and create better lifestyles for themselves. The alternative–a scarcity mindset, and the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ mentioned above–is a product of the same industrial era that created our education system.

What’s the answer?

Tell your kids to start a side business.

Put your kids in programs where they’ll learn independence. Expose them to places where they’ll speak publicly. Show them your bank account; where the money comes from, and where it goes. Most of all, seek to improve your own financial education. Kids copy their parents.

Stirrett’s article in the Globe and Mail won’t appear on social media platforms (that’s a different matter.) You can read it here: The Globe and Mail.

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