What we saw in the Alberta budget

On Thursday, February 25, Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews tabled the UCP government’s 2021–22 budget. One of the major themes of the budget was the government’s plan for economic recovery. With a light at the end of the tunnel of COVID-19, now is the time for Canadian governments to be making plans and preparing to support the post-pandemic recovery.

At CCI we eagerly read the details of the Alberta budget to understand how Alberta’s recovery plan will affect the province’s technology sector, and in particular the scale-up companies that we represent. On behalf of our members in Alberta, and more than 130 of Canada’s fastest-growing technology companies right across the country, CCI executive director Benjamin Bergen issued the following statement about the Alberta government’s 2021–22 budget:

What we saw in Budget 2021:

A bold “Made-In-Alberta” technology and innovation strategy focused on supporting Alberta’s local companies to become global brands:

“To achieve meaningful economic recovery in Alberta, the government must take an active approach to make the province more competitive in the global knowledge-based economy. We applaud this government’s new strategy focused on increasing Alberta’s innovation and commercialization outputs and driving economic renewal through homegrown ‘scale-up’ companies. Scale-ups are the largest job and wealth creators in the tech sector and are best positioned to generate new revenues for the province’s coffers. Our members are eager to work closely with the Government of Alberta on implementing this new strategy and updating the province’s economic playbook for the 21st century IP and data-driven economy.”

A focus on increasing access to skilled talent for Alberta’s fastest-growing companies:

“Highly-skilled workers are like jet fuel for Alberta’s fastest-growing companies. Without a comprehensive strategy focused on increasing the talent pool in Alberta’s tech sector, many companies will fail to take flight. That’s why we’re pleased to see measures focused on increasing the talent pipeline from post-secondary institutions and investments into upskilling programs to help workers get the retraining necessary for the digital economy. We continue to call on the province to create a dedicated tech stream as part of the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program so fast-growing companies can tap into the global talent they need to scale. All of Alberta prospers when our most strategic sectors have the talent they need to scale to global heights.”

Expanded access to capital for high-growth companies and a focus on economic diversification:

“Alberta’s innovators welcome the launch of the province’s new Innovation Employment Grant and the government’s increased investments to Alberta Innovates to expand commercialization support for scaling technology companies. By investing in the growth of Alberta’s most strategic sectors, including fintech, life and biosciences, and artificial intelligence, the government is helping to support economic diversification while fuelling job and wealth creation across the province.”

A commitment to adopting more innovative procurement processes

“The Government of Alberta is the biggest customer in the province and should use its buying power to accelerate the adoption of ‘Made-In-Alberta’ technologies. Furthermore, when the government purchases domestic goods and services, it acts as a major validator for Canadian companies, which in turn helps them accelerate future sales. This can help innovative scaling companies earn more business from governments and private sector customers around the world. We look forward to working with the Government of Alberta as it adopts new innovative practices to make its public procurement process more agile, fair and accessible to domestic small- and medium-sized businesses.”

What we didn’t see in Budget 2021

An update on the government’s planned intellectual property (IP) strategy:

“An Alberta intellectual property strategy is long overdue and remains critical to ensuring the success of the province’s new innovation strategy and long-term economic recovery. Local business leaders were pleased last year to learn that the government would be developing a “Made-in-Alberta” IP strategy that supports domestic firms. Our members eagerly await details of the government’s IP strategy to bolster the generation and protection of IP in Alberta and ensure that the value of publicly-funded research stays within Alberta and benefits the provincial economy.”

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