The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, shares his perspective on the made-in-Canada advantage and the federal government's work to spur innovation and growth.
 



Mediaplanet: How are you creating a climate that is ripe for innovation, investment, and growth in Canada?

Navdeep Bains: In 2015, we inherited an economy that was emerging from its second recession in the previous decade and unemployment was high. As Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, my mandate was clear: build an economy that works for everyone. In a rapidly-transforming global economy, we realized that we needed to invest to create the right economic conditions for businesses to grow and create jobs and ensure all Canadians were equipped to fully participate, contribute to, and benefit from that economic growth. We needed to invest in people.

The Innovation and Skills Plan — which forms the basis of our recently released Building A Nation of Innovators report — is a new approach to innovation that puts people at the heart of innovation. But innovation isn't just about having the latest iPhone — it's so much more than that. It's when people find new solutions to the challenges we face. If we want to see economic growth and if we want to see more jobs created, we need to invest in people and their skills.

How do we future-proof the Canadian economy and capitalize on today's growth opportunities?

Canadians have created nearly one million jobs since our government was elected in 2015. However, that does not on its own guarantee future success.

Our number one competitive advantage is the ingenuity, education, and drive of our people. We have one of the most diverse workforces in the world, with the highest proportion of post-secondary degrees in OECD countries (2017) and the highest share of women with post-secondary degrees. With Budget 2019, we're doubling down because we recognize our workforce will drive our future success. For example, we're providing every Canadian worker with the financial support, time, and job security to train and retrain over the course of their career. We've made the Global Talent Stream permanent, which secures access to top global talent for Canadian companies and creates 10 times as many jobs for Canadians.

"We are at the table and ready to export and trade. We are the only G7 country to have free trade agreements with all other G7 nations which puts us at a significant advantage."

We also recognize that investments in research and development help to future-proof businesses. Unfortunately, in the 10 years before we formed government, Canada's average OECD ranking on research and development had slid six spots but with the $2 billion Strategic Innovation Fund, we've started to turn the tide. With a little more than half the fund invested in 39 projects, we've secured $8.4 billion in R&D commitments.

What is the federal government doing to make it easier for companies to engage in trade and export around the world?

We are at the table and ready to export and trade. We are the only G7 country to have free trade agreements with all other G7 nations which puts us at a significant advantage.

And we are investing at all stages, from start-up to scale-up to export. The Innovation and Skills Plan is helping businesses through a variety of streamlined government programs. We are also increasing access to late-stage capital for innovative firms in every sector, and expanding advice to help more Canadian businesses find and enter new markets abroad. The Trade Commissioner Service then helps firms of all sizes navigate international markets by providing insights and access to international contacts that facilitate entering new markets and exporting.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister Navdeep Bains visit Ricks Good Eats, a local restaurant in the Minister's riding of Mississauga-Malton.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister Navdeep Bains visit Ricks Good Eats, a local restaurant in the Minister's riding of Mississauga-Malton.

What does Canada's innovation landscape currently look like?

We can assess our innovation landscape by asking ourselves if we are growing our solutions into global successes and if Canadians are the ones ultimately benefitting.

Last year, the number of Canadian companies on track to become unicorns (tech start-up companies on track to be valued over one billion dollars) doubled from 14 to 28, and none of them sold out to foreign entities or exited Canada. That means Canadian start-ups are scaling and staying in Canadian hands.

"After more than three years [...] our economy has turned a corner."

Unbeknownst to many, it's quicker to start a business in Canada than in any other G7 country. This could be why Forbes ranks Canada as the top country to do business with or in. We are also home to some of the world's top incubators and support a robust entrepreneurial landscape, ranking third in the world for Venture Capital investment as a percentage of GDP (2016). And on the last year on record, Toronto attracted more tech talent than the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C, and Seattle — combined!

After more than three years of strategic investments, close collaboration with our innovators, and smart industrial policy, our economy has turned a corner. By continuing to invest in Canadians, their businesses, their ideas and their communities, we're expecting it to continue to pay dividends for Canadians for the long term.