Canada will still try to bring tech firms north despite our ‘talent shortages’, innovation minister says

 thestar.com  5/17/2018 7:31:07 PM 

By Alex BoutilierOttawa Bureau

Thu., May 17, 2018

OTTAWA–Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains says the Liberal government will continue to attempt to lure American tech giants north of the border, despite existing skill shortages in Canada’s homegrown tech sector.

Ottawa has long struggled with the question of whether it’s better to have U.S. tech giants buy Canadian startups and invest north of the border, or if the federal government should encourage Canadian tech firms to grow into giants themselves.

Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains speaks at the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence, Teaching Excellence in STEM, and in Early Childhood Education at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa on May 2, 2018. Bains recently visited California’s Silicon Valley to drum up investment for Canada.
Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains speaks at the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence, Teaching Excellence in STEM, and in Early Childhood Education at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa on May 2, 2018. Bains recently visited California’s Silicon Valley to drum up investment for Canada.  (David Kawai / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

But in an interview with the Star on Tuesday, Bains rejected that either-or premise.

“I firmly believe we can do both and we need to do both,” Bains said while on a two-day sojourn to Silicon Valley.

“We have to recognize that we’re not an island … We have to take advantage of Canadian companies being able to go abroad and enter those markets, but also bring investments … to Canada.”

Bains, who met with Samsung on Tuesday, said he expects the company will have some news to announce in the coming days, but declined to reveal specifics.

According to the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), while Canada’s tech sector is growing rapidly, employers are facing “talent shortages (and) skill gaps” in bringing in workers. Bains called that challenge a global one, and said the government is trying to address it through their skills strategy.

Canada’s Liberal government has had a complicated relationship with Silicon Valley giants in recent months. These companies don’t always align with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s rhetoric on the importance of “inclusive growth” for the middle class, or the importance of labour standards in international trade deals.

And while it’s been Ottawa’s explicit goal to attract foreign investment tech money and skills to Canada, serious questions about those companies’ influence on Canadian elections, privacy issues, and the domestic tech sector continue to be raised.

Speaking to the House of Commons ethics committee last week, former Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie warned about potential “deeply negative spillover effects” American tech companies can have.

“This is the biggest force in the history of capitalism, where six companies come from nowhere to be the most valuable corporations in the world in a very short period of time,” Balsillie told the committee.

“So how they’re managed in terms of competitive structures and (regulation), and how we do it for the benefit of Canada’s economy and Canadian innovators is very important.”

Balsillie urged MPs to draft new rules to govern the “data-driven economy,” addressing questions like who has control – and ownership – over Canadians’ data.

The Liberals have been grappling with the possibility of new regulations for massive tech companies, but have yet to take much action on that front. The current review of the Broadcasting Act, which could include a consideration of companies like Facebook, Google and Netflix, has been held up as one possible avenue for new regulations.

The results of that review, currently being conducted by the CRTC, are due next month.

TOP STORIES, DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX.

NEW NEWSLETTERHEADLINES

SIGN UP

« Go back