Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adjusts his mask as he leaves a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. About 130 tech CEOs in Canada are accusing the prime minister of ignoring the needs of the innovation economy and being slow to enact data and intellectual property policies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adjusts his mask as he leaves a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. About 130 tech CEOs in Canada are accusing the prime minister of ignoring the needs of the innovation economy and being slow to enact data and intellectual property policies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

‘We need a champion in government:’ Tech CEOs want prosperity strategy from Trudeau

CEOs tired of waiting for a national data strategy

More than 130 Canadian tech leaders are calling on the prime minister to create a prosperity plan because they say the country won’t excel without support for innovators and the government has been slow to offer help.

In a letter they sent to Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, 133 executives — including the leaders of Lightspeed, Wattpad, SkipTheDishes, League and Dialogue — say Canada needs a plan to champion innovators and help build new jobs and industries as the country grapples with the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“When your government took office in 2015, we received encouraging signals that you understood the importance of Canada’s overdue transition to a knowledge economy … but in the years since 2015, innovation is barely mentioned,” the execs wrote.

“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 hope they will amount to something greater than the sum of the parts.”

The executives who penned the letter want a government prosperity plan to include strategic investments in businesses on track for success, help commercializing Canadian ideas, creation of an ecosystem where innovators can grow at home and abroad, and development of processes around intellectual property (IP) and data — areas Canada chronically fails to protect.

They say they are tired of waiting for the creation of a national data strategy, the rollout of a national IP plan and implementation of recommendations from several economic tables.

“We’ve kind of got things that are in the pathway and going out but they haven’t really been rolled out, so we need to follow through and execute on many of these ideas,” said Cory Janssen, the founder and CEO of Alberta-based artificial intelligence company AltaML, who signed the letter.

Leaders like Janssen want action now because the COVID-19 pandemic is causing companies and processes to face financial strains, challenges and opportunities like they’ve never seen before.

“This is sort where the switch really flips, and where having strategies that are digital first and that approach things like IP and data is super, super critical,” said Benjamin Bergen, the executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators.

His organization helped arrange the letter because the tech community is anxious to help rebuild Canada amid the pandemic and ensure that the tech gains the country has made in recent years don’t slip away.

Janssen believes a prosperity plan is key because policy-makers and corporate Canada have focused on an “outdated” growth model from the 1950s that centres on the country attracting huge multinational corporations and encouraging them to spend capital and create jobs and supply chains in Canada.

“The only way that you create prosperity is you have IP that is developed locally that thus results in the wealth and jobs created that benefit all of our communities here in Canada, and don’t just get sucked out to some foreign country,” Janssen argues.

The country’s innovation efforts, he said, have been “disjointed” at times and lack some of the rallying that countries like Singapore and Israel have done to become tech hubs.

He believes developing any strategy will take a mindset shift, while the tech CEOS behind the letter he signed say “we need a champion in government.”

They all agree now is the time to act because COVID-19 has created a sense of flexibility within the business and tech communities, but also from officials and the economy.

Failure to act on this moment puts Canada’s tech sector in danger of reversing the progress it has made and regressing, said Bergen.

The signs of trouble are already there, he said.

Canada recently fell two spots to 22nd place behind Slovenia in the 2020 Bloomberg Innovation Index, which measures entrepreneurship within a country and the efforts of government to support ingenuity and technology.

“These are the moments of inflection,” said Bergen. “Prosperity is not guaranteed because it’s public policy that ultimately determines whether some countries become successful and some don’t.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.

federal governmentTechnology

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced more than 1,500 active cases in Alberta Monday afternoon and five additional deaths. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
New COVID rules coming

Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Red Deer city council gave final approval to a mask bylaw that will go into effect on Nov. 30. (Black Press file photo).
Red Deer city council approves mask bylaw that takes effect on Nov. 30

It could be ‘superceded’ by a provincial mask bylaw, if one is announced Tuesday

The revised plans for the Dream Centre feature a two-storey renovated building. The centre launched a campaign Monday in hopes of raising more than a million to help with building renovation. (Contributed image).
Red Deer Dream Centre launches campaign, hopes to raise $1.4M

A proposed addiction treatment centre is hoping to raise $1.4 million to… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer area seniors facility pauses visits after staff tests positive for COVID

A Red Deer County seniors facility has put the breaks on visitors… Continue reading

Lynn Van Laar, chair of this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast, said the event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

Sacramento Kings' Alex Len (25) collects a rebound against Brooklyn Nets' Jarrett Allen (31) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Aug. 7, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ashley Landis
Raptors continue to shore up frontcourt, signing Alex Len to one-year deal

Raptors continue to shore up frontcourt, signing Alex Len to one-year deal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Freeland says Liberals will deliver economic, fiscal update on Nov. 30

Freeland says Liberals will deliver economic, fiscal update on Nov. 30

Canadian Joint Operations Commander Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau speaks during a news conference on the recent Canadian Forces helicopter crash, Tuesday, May 19, 2020 in Ottawa. The Canadian Armed Forces is preparing to formally apologize to victims of sexual misconduct. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canadian Armed Forces to formally apologize to victims for sexual misconduct

Canadian Armed Forces to formally apologize to victims for sexual misconduct

Alberta Liberal Party David Khan at a campaign stop in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 11, 2019. The Alberta Liberal Party says its leader, David Khan, is stepping down. A news release from the party on Sunday evening says Khan is accepting a new job in law. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Liberal Party says leader, David Khan, stepping down to accept new job in law

Alberta Liberal Party says leader, David Khan, stepping down to accept new job in law

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday, February 6, 2020. Iveson says he won't seek re-election next fall. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson announces he’s not running for re-election next fall

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson announces he’s not running for re-election next fall

In this Nov. 17, 2020, photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-5 rocket is seen on the launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province. Chinese technicians were making final preparations Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, to launch a Long March-5 rocket carrying a mission to bring back material from the lunar surface in a potentially major advance for the country's space program. (Guo Cheng/Xinhua via AP)
China launches mission to bring back material from moon

China launches mission to bring back material from moon

President Donald Trump drives a golf cart as he golfs at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Biden signals sharp shift from Trump with Cabinet picks

Biden signals sharp shift from Trump with Cabinet picks

Licensed vocational nurse Caren Williams, left, collects a nasal swab sample from a traveler at a COVID-19 testing site at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Los Angeles County announced new coronavirus-related restrictions Sunday that will prohibit in-person dining for at least three weeks as cases rise at the start of the holiday season and officials statewide begged Californians to avoid traveling or gathering in groups for Thanksgiving. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
LA on the brink of a stay-home order as COVID cases rise

LA on the brink of a stay-home order as COVID cases rise

Most Read