Legislative Lookahead: Top priorities for innovators in B.C. this fall

By Tessa Seager, CCI director of government affairs in British Columbia

Since British Columbia’s legislature adjourned on June 17, Premier John Horgan and his team have spent the summer months battling two emergencies: rising COVID case numbers and out-of-control forest fires. Government is surely keen to shift its attention from emergencies to economic recovery, and with B.C.’s recent announcement of vaccine passports and the end of forest fire season, there is hope that better days are ahead.

Innovation has a pivotal role to play in securing those better days. To that end, three things I’ll be watching for when the legislature returns on October 4 are: a chance to modernize privacy regulation, the deployment of capital, and the release of the fall economic plan.

Privacy Regulation

The Special Committee to review the Personal Information Protection Act has wrapped up public consultations (you can see CCI’s submission here) and is hard at work producing its report for the Legislative Assembly ahead of a December 8 deadline. While the legislature isn’t bound to act on the Committee’s recommendations, there is widespread consensus that the provincial private sector privacy legislation, which hasn’t been substantially updated since it was brought into force in 2004, needs to be modernized. Considering similar privacy modernization work is being undertaken in Ontario, Alberta, and at the federal level, the Committee will be feeling extra pressure to get it right.

Deployment of capital

Fall should bring the ribbon-cutting of not one, not two, but three new sources of funding. InBC, the province’s $500 million triple-bottom line strategic investment fund, is currently recruiting for its inaugural CEO and CFO, ahead of opening its application portal and making its first investments by the end of fall. The Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy, which will operate independently from government with the goal of funding and accelerating the commercialization and scale-up of B.C.-based clean-energy technologies, is also targeting a fall operational date. Lastly, the federal government’s new B.C.-specific Regional Development Agency, PacifiCan, is staffing up and opening offices across the country (and has already launched its Jobs and Growth Fund). Over the past few months, CCI has provided governance and operational advice on each of these institutions, and we look forward to seeing them come to life this fall.

Economic plan

Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, Ravi Kahlon, spent his summer consulting with stakeholders (including CCI) as he led engagement on the province’s fall economic plan, a long-term economic plan that will steer the province through the post-pandemic era while building a sustainable, inclusive, and innovative economy.

Heavily informed by Professor Mariana Mazzucato, we can expect the economic plan to identify bold, experimental solutions to some of today’s biggest challenges (climate change and a changing labour force, to name just two). You can read CCI’s full submission on the plan here, as well as our Medium piece on the plan here, which focus on the message that the 21st century economy demands 21st century policy infrastructure. This, coincidentally, was also CCI’s message at our recent appearance before the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, which is wrapping up consultations with stakeholders to develop its Budget 2022 recommendations. Stay tuned for a further analysis upon release of both the economic plan and the Committee’s report.

One last thing

The war for tech talent is reaching a boiling point. The Horgan government took promising steps over the summer — making the Provincial Nominee Program Tech Pilot permanent and announcing changes to the Innovator Skills Initiative with the aim of increasing diversity in the tech sector— but the temperature has only gotten hotter. How will the province respond to factors like brain drain 2.0, spiking salaries, or its demand dilemma?

All in, it’s an exciting time on the west coast. With boots on the ground and a growing membership in B.C., CCI looks forward to a busy fall spent advocating for increased access to talent, capital, customers, and the establishment of marketplace frameworks to the benefit of our members and the wider ecosystem.

If you’re interested in CCI’s advocacy work in British Columbia on behalf of scale-up companies in the innovation economy, contact Tessa Seager at tseager@canadianinnovators.org

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CCI is Canada’s 21st century business council, advocating for our country’s high-growth, innovative companies. Visit CanadianInnovators.org to learn more.

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Council of Canadian Innovators

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CCI is Canada’s 21st century business council, advocating for our country’s high-growth, innovative companies. Visit CanadianInnovators.org to learn more.

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