What we saw in the 2021 B.C. Budget

The following statement can be attributed to Benjamin Bergen, Executive Director of the Council of Canadian Innovators, a national business association that represents more than 140 of Canada’s fastest-growing technology-intensive companies including B.C’s AbCellera, Canalyst, Clio, Covalent, FISPAN, GeoComply, Jane.app, Klue, Mogo, Plurilock, STEMCELL Technologies, Terramera, Traction Guest, Traction on Demand, and VanHack:

Today’s budget in British Columbia reflects a province that is still focused on fighting COVID-19 and carrying citizens and businesses through the worst of the crisis. While the government’s efforts to help people weather the pandemic are critical, we were hoping to see a larger, more clearly defined vision for post-pandemic prosperity and economic recovery.

B.C.’s fastest-growing companies are already making plans for rapid expansions in the post-pandemic economy and look to the B.C. government to be partners in their pursuits to scale-up globally. Now is exactly the right time to develop a B.C. prosperity strategy which drives growth and economic activity, which in turn will create jobs, tax revenue and new wealth to pay for the public services and infrastructure British Columbians count on.

We had hoped to see more from the government on its plans to develop a ‘made-in-B.C.’ IP strategy, create sector-specific growth strategies for the province’s advanced manufacturing and technology sectors, and establish innovation clusters — all priorities listed in Premier Horgan’s mandate letters to his ministers.

The decision to invest in micro-credentials and other forms of skills retraining is a step in the right direction by this government, because a shortage of highly skilled talent is among the most pressing concerns for scaling companies in the knowledge-based and data-driven economy. However, we remain concerned that today’s budget made no mention of extending the B.C. PNP Tech Pilot, currently set to expire in June. This is an all too important program for B.C.’s fastest-growing tech companies, and should be made permanent.

Our members continue to look forward to details regarding the new Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy and the forthcoming $500 million InBC Strategic Investment Fund, which both have the potential to fuel the growth of the province’s scale-up companies. However, to get the best value for their investments in technology companies, the government must ensure that investment capital is prioritized for growing companies headquartered in B.C. rather than subsidizing foreign players.

As the pace of COVID-19 vaccination in Canada increases, now is the moment for governments to be planning for a meaningful post-pandemic economic recovery. CCI’s members look forward to working with the B.C. government on its renewed economic framework and co-developing innovation strategies that help bolster the growth of the province’s firms to reach their global potential.

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