Canada: Land of mines and banks

It's membership time. Cultivate Canada's media. Support rabble.ca. Become a member.

Just in time for Canada Day, the Globe and Mail's Report on Business issued its annual Top 1000 rankings of the thousand largest publicly traded companies (by assets) in Canada (ranked by profit). I blogged about this last year as well. It's such an interesting snapshot of Canadian business it's worth perusing.

Once again, this listing reveals the extent to which Canada's economic base is being steadily narrowed in the face of globalization and financialization.

Of the 50 largest corporations, fully 20 are resource producers (up from 17 of the top 50 last year). Ten are financial and life insurance companies (down from 12 last year; the losses sustained by some major life insurance companies pushed them well down the list this year). Another six are holding and property companies (which I consider broadly a form of finance: coupon-clipping, in essence), and three more are pipeline companies (tied at the hip to the energy industry). By that reckoning, 39 of the top 50 companies in Canada are either resource or financial firms. That's a precarious concentration of our national economic eggs in just a couple of baskets.

Rounding out the top 50 are three telephone companies, three retailers, two railways, and all of three manufacturing firms (RIM, Bombardier, and Magna), down from four last year. (With RIM in free fall, next year there will be just two manufacturers on the list.)

This is a dramatic statement of the general failure of the Canadian business class to build a diversified, productive, innovative foothold for our country in the global economy. If it doesn't involve digging stuff out of the ground, or creating and manipulating paper assets, then Canada pretty much isn't in the game.

Brian Milner noted in his RoB commentary that over half of the total profits of all 1000 of the firms listed came from resource and financial firms. The two sectors account for an equally dominant share of stock market capitalization, too. As Milner warned, while investors are no doubt happy with the strong profits that have been generated by both sectors, "their throngs of admirers have to be wondering how long they can keep pulling fat rabbits out of their respective hats." When that stops happening, the whole country will be left grasping at economic straws.

Jim Stanford is an economist with CAW. This article was first posted on The Progressive Economics Forum.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.