Canada Moves to Spark Investment and Growth in Tech and Green Sectors
Mar 23, 2017
On Wednesday, March 22, the Canadian government, led by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, unveiled its annual budget that includes funding for programs that promise to energize investment in Canada’s technology sector, including green industries. The budget items, presented by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, are also aimed at increasing the country’s competitiveness, including drawing talent from other countries, notably away from the U.S. They support the Trudeau government's Innovation Agenda, announced last year, which is aimed at ensuring learning, skills, and employment "to solve global challenges and strengthen communities."
According to a CBC news story, there will be a new program, Innovation Canada that would support innovators and build “super cluster” hubs for them. Innovation Canada would be seeded with $950 million (all amounts Canadian dollars) over the next five years.
The CBC also reports that government also plans to make available $400 million over three years for a new Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative that is aimed at increasing last-stage venture capital available to Canadian entrepreneurs. The government also proposes to spend $14 million over two years for Futurpreneur Canada “to match investments with funding from departments and private sector.” There also will be initiatives to enable selling to the federal government.
The government will additionally be backing clean tech initiatives and companies, according to the CBC. The measures include $570 million over three years in working capital to support clean tech firms and $380 million over three years to support equity financing for them. There also will be $400 million over five years to recapitalize the SD Tech Fund (Sustainable Development).
These programs, if successful, will prod Canada further on a long-sought (and essential) transformation from traditionally a conservative resources and services dependent economy, with a small manufacturing sector, to one that is digital and innovation-driven. Canadians have historically been risk averse, often preferring to let (and in fact encourage) foreign investors to take the plunge, while investing in “safe” businesses, such as finance and real estate. While many innovative companies have been started and thrived in Canada, the nation has not been as fertile as other countries for such businesses, particularly as they expand.
“Knowing the federal Government’s plan for this to be an Innovation Agenda budget, it does contain a number of important measures that address our nation’s technology skills gap, bolster our ability to help innovative businesses grow and scale while strengthening Canada’s ability compete digitally on the world stage,” says Robert Watson, President and CEO of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), in a blog. “The devil is in the details though, so ITAC will continue to review the budget, discuss implementation with departments, distill down industry’s perspective and continue this dialogue.”
The Canadian budget follows on the heel of other steps to grow the country’s tech sector. The government, recognizing the value of talented immigrants in creating and energizing innovative businesses, announced that its new Global Skills Strategy program will launch June 12, 2017. Its hallmark is the Global Talent Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that will shorten visa and short-term work permit processing.
The Global Talent Stream program, according to a CBC story, sets a two-week turnaround on these documents so as to help startups attract "’low-risk, high-talent’ foreign workers” to Canada. The article also made clear that the new program is intended to enable Canada to take advantage of the Trump Administration’s immigration and work visa policies crackdowns. The CBC later reported that the new budget allocates an additional $7.8 million over two years for the program.
"Canada continues to compete in a global innovation race. As technologies become more widely available to everyone, the only competitive edge for countries and businesses is the distinctive talent and creativity of their people,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, in a prepared statement.
“While skilled immigrants are now identifying Canada as a country of choice in which to apply their knowledge and ideas, we also need to prepare our homegrown talent for a rapidly changing job market. Our government wants to create good quality, high-paying jobs for the middle class and those working hard to join it."
Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.