A Letter to Canada’s New Innovation Minister

January 13, 2021

Dear Minister Champagne,

On behalf of the CEOs of more than 130 innovative Canadian companies — business leaders commercializing ideas across all sectors and industries — we would like to congratulate you on your new role as Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. As a national business council focused exclusively on issues affecting the Canadian technology sector, we care deeply about the policies, programs and economic leadership of your ministry, and we look forward to a productive relationship working with you in this new role. Given your past engagement with our members, including our Chair, as well as your business experience before entering politics, we are confident that this will be a highly productive and collaborative relationship.

You take responsibility for innovation and economic development at a truly unique moment. Our economy continues to be ravaged by the worst crisis in living memory, precipitated by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, thanks to a wide array of technologies, we are better positioned to manage this pandemic than at any point in history. Moreover, we can hold onto a glimmer of hope, as we await the fastest mass inoculation in human history, thanks to scientific advancements and innovative techniques for vaccine development. With hope in sight, there has never been a more important moment for Canada to be a developing prosperity strategy to allow our country to enjoy the maximum economic benefit from the post-pandemic recovery.

Innovative, scaling Canadian companies stand ready to help lead the recovery, and in many cases, these companies are already leading in areas of clean technology and digital technology, helping to solve serious problems facing our society. Any serious prosperity strategy will inevitably recognize that high-growth firms commercializing ideas and selling at global scale can be a tentpole for the broader economy. But we need champions in government who want to see our homegrown scale-ups achieve global success. This means pushing to end the immigration logjam, allowing the Global Skills Strategy to continue allowing companies to quickly bring talented workers to Canada. Championing Canadian scale-ups means building off the government’s intellectual property strategy and ensuring the success of the Innovation Asset Collective as a way to be certain that Canadians enjoy the economic benefits that flow from Canadian ingenuity. And we cannot champion a homegrown innovation ecosystem without reviewing Canada’s foreign direct investment policies to recognize the strategically important value of our most promising firms and to defend against predatory foreign acquisitions that can hurt our future prosperity.

Homegrown scale-ups will be looking to you as the federal government moves forward with major plans to reform policies which shape the technology sector in Canada. The data and privacy legislation announced last fall by your predecessor is an important step towards modernizing Canadian data practices. Similarly, we are eagerly awaiting more information about steps your government plans to take to tax digital services. Specifics of these new rules will be important, and we must aim to avoid unintended consequences which could hurt Canadian innovators. On both of these files, and many others, we hope you will consult with leaders of innovative Canadian companies who can share their direct experience of how public policy choices affect their businesses.

Four months ago, CCI published our Plan for Economic Recovery and Reorientation. A lot has changed since September, but the eight specific policy recommendations are still clear steps that Canadian governments can take to make Canada more innovative and competitive. In October, more than 130 CEOs published an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for a new ethos for economic development, asking the government to view the shift to a 21st Century knowledge-based economy as a nation-building project. We have attached both documents for your reference.

Since CCI was founded in 2015, the organization has been a leading voice in Canada, working to ensure that the national conversation around innovation and economic development policy is led by the CEOs of Canadian companies, rather than representatives of foreign branch plants or non-practitioners. Today, the Council is composed of more than 130 CEOs who are the leading commercialization experts in their fields of clean technology, fintech, cybersecurity, and information and communication technology. All of our members are job creators, investors and philanthropists.

At your earliest convenience, we would request the opportunity to meet with you and your team to discuss how Canada’s most successful scale-ups can help advance your mandate and the prosperity of our country.

Before then, please accept our sincerest best wishes as you settle into your new portfolio as the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. As our country grapples with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, all Canadians need to pull together to steer our country toward a brighter future, and we look forward to working with you with that goal in mind.

Kind regards,

Benjamin Bergen, Executive Director

Jim Balsillie, Chair

John Ruffolo, Vice Chair


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