Open Access Government chart Canada’s innovation priorities in its recovery plan from the COVID-19 pandemic
Canada has been a longstanding world leader in science, technology and innovation and is recognised as one of the most innovative and competitive economies in the world. The country has a long history of investing in R&D, funding industry and academic partnership programmes, implementing innovation-friendly policies and regulations and encouraging private-sector advancement of science and technology.
However, the COVID-19 crisis has had a huge impact on Canada’s economy and has also hindered innovation progress, with some challenges that existed before the pandemic being exacerbated. GDP fell by a record 13% over the first half of 2020, and activity in Canada declined about three times as much as in the 2008-09 recession, in a much shorter period. In addition, more than three million Canadians lost their jobs. To combat Canada’s declining employment rate and uncertain economy, the government introduced “Budget 2021” – a recovery plan for jobs, growth and resilience in Canada.
Budget 2021 focuses on pillars of growth acting as the foundations to build recovery and move the Canadian economy onto a higher, more inclusive path. To build a nation of innovators, Budget 2021 is providing significant funding opportunities for research and development, and furthermore, the Prime Minister has tasked the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne is Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, with a number of tasks and priorities.
Supporting the Innovation
Since it was launched in 2017, the Innovation Superclusters Initiative has helped Canada build successful innovation ecosystems in important areas of the economy. Drawing on the strength and variety of their networks, the superclusters quickly pivoted their operations, playing an important role in Canada’s COVID-19 response. For example, the Digital Technology Supercluster allocated resources to projects that used digital technologies and AI to help facilitate faster, more accurate diagnosis, treatment and care of COVID-19 patients.
To help ensure that these vital superclusters and others can continue supporting innovative Canadian projects, Budget 2021 proposed to provide $60 million over two years, starting in 2021-22.
Growing Canada’s life sciences and bio-manufacturing sector is a priority that goes beyond responding to COVID-19. It is a growing sector that supports thousands of jobs. Budget 2021 has proposed to provide a total of $2.2 billion over seven years towards fostering an innovative domestic life sciences sector. This support will provide foundational investments to help grow Canada’s talent and research systems, thus creating exciting innovation opportunities.
The Rt Hon Justin Trudeau, PC MP, Prime Minister of Canada, stated in his 2021 Ministerial Mandate Letter to Minister Champagne that Canada must “continue investing in Canada’s long-term bio-manufacturing capacity and, with the support of the Minister of Health, ensure that Canadian scientists, researchers and post-secondary institutions have the tools and resources they need to advance discoveries of vaccines and therapeutics to combat COVID-19.”
It is also a priority of Minister Champagne to work in close proximity with the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the Minister of Indigenous Services on the ongoing work with provinces and territories and Indigenous leaders, to ensure COVID-19 vaccines continue to be efficiently and widely distributed to Canadians once they are ready. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Indigenous communities and businesses.
Indigenous communities in Canada have for too long been overlooked, and it is imperative this stops. It is stated within Budget 2021 that these communities will be at the forefront of Canada’s recovery.
Budget 2021 states that “no relationship is more important to the federal government than the relationship with Indigenous peoples. The federal government continues to work with Indigenous peoples to build a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, government-to-government relationship—one based on respect, partnership and recognition of rights. In Budget 2021, the federal government is furthering its plan to address the unique challenges faced by Indigenous communities during the pandemic.”
Accessible digitisation and clean technology
Recognising that all Canadians must be equipped with the tools to fully participate in and benefit from the digital economy is also a priority. The continued implementation of the Universal Broadband Fund to ensure that all Canadians, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet is vital to a solid recovery.
“Breaking down barriers that prevent people from joining the labour force, such as childcare, creating opportunities for young Canadian workers, and helping workers find positions that match their skills will help each worker reach their full potential,” stated Prime Minister Trudeau. Furthermore, Canada is continuing to invest in clean technology for the very same reason, and also to protect the environment in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
As the world confronts the climate emergency and the economy shifts, investments that fight climate change and hasten the development of Canada’s green economy help to create new industries and jobs now. And, as a result, they secure the well-being and prosperity of the next generations of Canadians.