TORONTO — With the Canadian economy on everyone’s minds these days, the Toronto Board of Trade welcomed Michael Sabia, CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Canada, Quebec’s largest institutional investor, as its speaker last week. The lunch, which attracted more than 400 of the country’s top business elite, was held at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.

Sabia, the first Anglophone to lead the Caisse, told the crowd of rapt business execs that technology and globalization are the key drivers fuelling change in the marketplace. “Technology is necessary but is profoundly altering how things get made, and where they get made,” said the financier, adding that globalization has made everyone more deeply connected. He warned that chronically low global growth and slowing labour productivity are having far-ranging impacts. In 2016, global growth is expected to be three per cent while the U.S. market is expected to grow at two per cent. Sabia told the audience that at the rate of three-per-cent growth, it takes 24 years to double the standard of living.

While the rich are getting richer, Sabia said that too much effort is being spent on financial systems for the very few. “How do we generate growth in difficult times?” he asked. “Government needs to step up and put growth at the centre of priorities,” adding, “We need to focus on entrepreneurship, innovation and infrastructure.” But, he warned that “government can’t do it all by themselves.”

In today’s challenging environment, “The party is over. Investment return will not deliver the returns required,” he said. “Infrastructure drives productivity and stimulates economic activity,” adding “every $1 of investment generates $1.40 of economic activity and creates 800,000 jobs.”

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