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SENATORS’ STATEMENTS — Canadian Innovation

December 9, 2021

Honourable senators, I rise to celebrate a new $200-million all-Canadian tech fund launched by Waterloo’s Communitech. Their Truth North Strategy is designed to accelerate the success of top-performing start-ups and scale-ups so that they “own the podium” and win globally.

Colleagues, Statistics Canada reported that over the past two decades, the productivity of digitally intensive industries grew four times faster than the rest of our economy. Digitization is accelerating. If we want to have the tax revenue needed to support our all-important social programs, we need to deliberately build a digital tax base.

We must deliberately create the conditions to ensure that the IP — or intellectual property — head offices, executives, investors and other crucial elements of our leading tech firms remain in Canada. Otherwise, we’ll continue to buy innovative, Canadian-founded products and services from other countries. That’s the burning platform.

The world is transforming around us. However, our federal government is not updating the legislation necessary for us to compete globally. We need to prioritize important regulatory changes, like open banking and open data, and update our procurement policies and our privacy and competition laws — Senator Wetston having already initiated an examination of the latter.

Canada is now home to the second largest innovation cluster in the world, and it’s growing at four times the rate of any other cluster in the world. The Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor is now home to 200,000 tech workers.

In the last decade, Canadian founders started global winners like Shopify, Lightspeed, Clio, D2L and Instacart. Together, the 10 biggest tech companies with Canadian founders have created $367 billion in new value and tens of thousands of jobs, but too many head south. Why? Because we don’t tend to invest in our tech companies or buy their products.

When a Canadian founder secures U.S. investment, too often it signals the beginning of that company’s departure from Canada just as their growth is accelerating. Communitech is challenging us to dramatically increase access to Canadian-based investment, tech talent and procurement opportunities and to update our regulatory policies so made-in-Canada competition is encouraged.

Competition drives innovation in new entrants and incumbents. Innovation delivers more value at a lower cost, creating productivity growth to offset our weakening prosperity. That’s why Senator Marty Deacon and I are focusing attention on Communitech’s True North Strategy. Their CEO Chris Albinson launched this plan so Canada can secure the gold medal in innovation. It’s the tech equivalent of Canada’s hugely successful Own the Podium organization developed by the legendary Olympian Cathy Priestner Allinger, now on Communitech’s team.

We have world-leading founders, colleagues; we just need to support them with talent, integrated domestic markets and growth capital.

Thank you.

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