In the last few days alone, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has worked hard to put a spotlight light on Canada’s technology sector both on the national and international stage.
Earlier this week, Trudeau visited the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Along the way, he helped open the new Google Canada headquarters and announced $12M in funding for clean water technologies as well as $40M for cell and gene therapy research.
Trudeau is now in Davos attending his first World Economic Forum as Prime Minister, where he touted “The Canadian Opportunity,” promoting Canada’s “resourcefulness,” rather than its resources, which has been promoted in the past by former PM Stephen Harper.
In his keynote speech, Trudeau made special mention of Canada’s technology hub in Waterloo, and the talent that has flowed out of the University of Waterloo, powering technology companies not only in Canada but also south of the border in Silicon Valley.
This remark on the Canadian technology sector is in line with this year’s WEF theme, the Fourth Industrial Revolution – referring to the exponential growth and permeation of technology in everyday life. Canada has been a consistent player in the technology scene, from the height of the popularity of BlackBerry to the rise of Canadian-born and bred startups like Hootsuite and Shopify, to the recognition of Canada as a place to do business, with tech giants like Cisco and Google coming to the country to plant roots.
In the wake of falling oil and commodity prices, and as a result, the Canadian dollar, the country needs to diversify and look at other ways to bring investment into the country and help its entrepreneurs build businesses that can flourish. Foreign investors might take note that their money will go a long way because of the low Canadian dollar. Canadian entrepreneurs might now be more likely to build their businesses at home and stay here, for the same reasons. Canada is ready for a chance to bounce back, and the tech sector should lead the way.
Trudeau’s speech in Davos was not met without criticism. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who is also at the WEF moderating a panel, spoke out against Trudeau’s description of Canada’s economy, saying it is more “resource-plus.” Here in Alberta, the downturn has been felt beyond the energy sector. There is merit to Nenshi’s call for help from the federal government to support building pipelines to facilitate the export of Canada’s resources. This would help nurse Alberta’s economy back to health, and subsequently, that of Canada.
However, it is worth taking notice, especially for the technology sector, that we now have a Prime Minister who wants to be an advocate for the industry and is encouraging the world’s elite to come to Canada to invest and build technology businesses here.
In his final State of the Union address earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama talked about the technology and innovation that occurred during his two terms. The following day, Re/code and VentureBeat both recognized the contributions Obama and his administration have made to the tech sector in the U.S. If Trudeau is thinking about the legacy he would want to leave as PM with regards to supporting tech, he might want to take some points from Obama’s tenure.
He is already off to a good start – the fact that Trudeau is recognizing the Canadian tech sector as a valuable contributor to the economy and a driver of growth, already sets him apart from his predecessor. Moving forward, he must also make sure to recognize the tech innovation coming out not only from Ontario, but from coast to coast. Trudeau, who is currently enjoying positive attention across the globe, can take what the Canadian technology community has started and make Canada a destination for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.