Tech CEOs decry patchwork policies in letter to Trudeau

·Telecom & Tech Reporter
·2-min read
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a press conference during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, Ontario, on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

Some prominent Canadian tech CEOs are calling out the government in an open letter for creating tech policies that are “more of a patchwork” that push the country further down the ladder as a global innovation leader.

Over 100 CEOs signed the letter, authored by the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI), including Allen Lau of Wattpad, Kevin Edwards of SkipTheDishes, David Ossip of Ceridian, Mike McDerment of FreshBooks, and Eric Boyko of Stingray Digital.

“In the years since 2015, innovation is barely mentioned. We see less of a bold, cohesive plan for innovation in Canada and more of a patchwork — pilot programs and furtive policies rolled out in the hope they will amount to something greater than the sum of the parts,” the letter reads.

Ben Bergen, executive director of the CCI, said in an interview that one of the reasons Canada now ranks 22nd on Bloomberg’s Innovation Index is because of short-term policies that do not answer bigger questions like how Canada will protect local innovation. According to the index, Canada dropped to 19th place in 2016 from 12th spot the year before.

“Clearly this is an indicator of that’s not us going in the right direction and we really should be in the top 10,” Bergen said. “As the government is creating these sort of patchwork pieces, how do you properly scrub that together with a national strategy on things like IP?”

In 2017, Trudeau’s government announced the Strategic Innovation Fund, the Innovation Superclusters Initiative (project spending ramped in 2019), and the Economic Strategy Tables.

These policies were aimed at providing funds to high-growth sectors like clean technology, information and communications technology, and agri-food. The policies also offered the ability to collaborate between industry and government and promoted research and development.

More recently, the Trudeau government suggested in its throne speech coming legislation or new regulations for taxing large technology companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, and Netflix.

The letter calls on the government to support the sector by implementing strategies that grow Canadian ideas to be used globally and by designing an ecosystem where innovators in Canada can grow locally and abroad.

It adds that the government should make strategic investments into “market-proven businesses that have already been working overtime during the pandemic,” like domestic cybersecurity companies, Bergen said.

The CCI also recently released a report highlighting eight recommendations from the technology sector on ways to boost Canada’s economy. Bergen highlighted at the time that Canada needs to reconsider its approach to foreign direct investment in the innovation sector as part of that COVID-19 recovery plan.

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