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Digital Policy Salon: Budget 2021 Special Issue

Digital Policy Salon
Digital Policy Salon: Budget 2021 Special Issue
By ICTC-CTIC • Issue #41 • View online
Welcome to the 41st issue of the Digital Policy Salon.
Canada’s Budget 2021 was released this week, and the 700+ page document contains many ambitious proposals. This budget strikes the right balance between inclusive economic growth and job creation while maintaining focus on climate action. It extends important COVID-19 support for businesses and individuals and creates new landmark programs like a national childcare system.
In August 2020, ICTC submitted to the federal pre-budget consultation, proposing six pillars for a strong and inclusive Canadian digital economy. These included workforce development, support for SMEs, and a focus on climate policy, all of which have come through in Budget 2021. In this issue, we’ve read the budget so that you don’t have to, and are bringing you important updates related to tech and labour policy.
First, our policy section offers key line items from Budget 2021, focusing on three main areas: workforce development, technology adoption and R&D, and net-zero policy. Next, we bring you ICTC’s insights on the federal budget, an article that provides timely and immediate commentary on the document.
One of this budget’s main areas for discussion is R&D and supporting start-ups. The whitepaper Bolstering Growth examined Canada’s innovation track record, along with measures that would support Canadian SMEs to scale internationally. Climate policy and technology is also a central component of Budget 2021. Designing Smart and Sustainable Communities emphasized the federal government’s role in leading an energy transition, a principle fully embraced by this release. And, last but not least, “what we’re reading” zooms in on the prospect of a tax on revenue for digital services (or a “big tech tax”), detailing what this could mean for the Canadian economy.
Our main takeaway? As illustrated in our visualization of the week, Budget 2021’s focus on inclusion is commendable. The plans support women in the workforce, gig workers, and Indigenous students and entrepreneurs, among many others. In the coming weeks and months, we intend to host further commentary and analysis on budget topics, so please feel welcome to let us know what issues you’d like to hear more about in a webinar or article. We hope you enjoy this special issue’s overview of relevant budget commitments.
- Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC)

Budget 2021 Tech Policy Updates 🇨🇦
Prioritizing work-integrated learning, entrepreneurial skills-development, and student success will help build an inclusive labour force for the digital economy. On this front, Budget 2021 proposes to: 
  • Develop an enterprise-wide digital platform to process immigration applications and amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to give the Minister more authority over choosing skilled candidates.  
  • Increase financial support for students and earmark $721M to help students find jobs through programs like the Student Work Placement Program, Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, and Canada Summer Jobs program. 
  • Support almost 585,000 new training and work opportunities for Canadians through ten proposed measures, including a number of programs led by ESDC, ISED, and Mitacs. 
  • Conduct public consultations on EI reform and make legislative changes to better support and protect self-employed workers and gig-economy workers. 
  • Establish a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Plan—worth $30B over 5 years and $8.3B ongoing—with additional funding for programs that tailor to the needs of children with disabilities; Indigenous families. 
  • Support Northern and Indigenous post-secondary education by supporting the transformation of Aurora College to a polytechnic university; and providing funding to support Indigenous students. 
  • Provide $364M in funding to various entrepreneurship programs, including specific programs for women entrepreneurs, Black entrepreneurs, and Indigenous entrepreneurs. 
Investments in technology adoption, digital infrastructure, R&D, and IP expertise can help Canadian businesses succeed. With this in mind, Budget 2021 proposes to: 
  • Establish a Canada Digital Adoption Program to help up to 16,000 SMEs adopt new digital technologies; and provide $2.6B to the Business Development Bank of Canada to help SMEs finance tech adoption. 
  • Provide $1B over 6 years to the Universal Broadband Fund to support and speed up broadband projects. 
  • Provide an additional $7.2bn over 7 years for the Strategic Innovation Fund; and an additional $60M to the Innovation Superclusters Initiative to stimulate commercial activity. 
  • Establish programs (e.g., ElevateIP, IRAP, etc.) that help Canadian startups and SMEs access expert IP services. 
  • Continue work at the Standards Council of Canada on industry-wide data governance standards. 
  • Establish a Data Commissioner to inform government and business on data-driven issues, protect personal data, and encourage innovation in the digital marketplace. 
  • Create new capital and revenue opportunities for digital economy businesses using strategic public procurement and programs like the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative  
  • Implement tax changes, including a new three percent Digital Services Tax and other amendments to the Income Tax Act, to even the playing field for Canadian businesses. 
  • Ramp up technology-specific strategies by providing an additional $443.8M in funding over 10 years to the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy; establishing a new Pan-Canadian Genomics Strategy (worth $400M over 6 years); and creating a new National Quantum Strategy (worth $360M over 7 years). 
  • Support private sector R&D (and academic-private sector R&D partnerships) through NSERC and NRC funding programs. 
Growing the net-zero economy through Canada’s clean energy and clean tech industries is a core focus of Budget 2021, including proposals to: 
  • Publish an official green bond framework to precede the government’s first federal green bond (to be established in 2021-22 with an issuance target of $5B). 
  • Providing $5B over 7 years to the Net Zero Accelerator for projects that will help reduce GHGs across Canada’s economy. 
Support Canada’s clean tech industry by: 
  • Making $1b available on a cash basis over 5 years to help draw in private sector investment in large-scale clean tech projects; 
  • Implementing changes to tax policy to incentivize private sector investment in things like clean energy and carbon capture technology.  
  • Establish the Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy to advance the scale-up and commercialization of clean tech; and provide additional funding to GAC for the International Business Development Strategy for Clean Technology.  
Improve Canada’s position on zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) by:  
  • Providing new funding ($46.4M) to the NRC to advance critical battery mineral processing and refining expertise in Canada; and  
  • Providing new funding ($56.1M over 5 years) to Measurement Canada to develop and implement standards for ZEV charging and fueling stations. 
Improve Canada’s position on carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) tech by:  
  • Providing new funding ($319M over 7 years) to the NRC to support relevant R&D and commercialization activity; and  
  • Establishing a new investment tax credit for capital invested in CCUS projects. 
Improve Canada’s position on clean/low-carbon fuel by providing: 
  • $1.5B over 5 years to NRC to establish a Clean Fuels Fund to support the production and distribution of low-carbon/zero-emission fuels; 
  • $227.9M over 8 years to TBS to implement a Low-Carbon Fuel Procurement Program; 
  • $67.4M over 7 years to Measurement Canada to ensure that commercial transactions of low-carbon fuels are measured accurately; and $67.2M over 7 years to EEEC to implement and administer the Clean Fuel Standard. 
*Complete this short form to let us know what issues you want to see analyzed further through future webinars and articles.
- Mairead Matthews
Our Perspective
ICTC Insights on the 2021 Federal Budget
Bolstering Growth: The Next Frontier for Canadian Startups | Overview
Designing Smart & Sustainable Communities
What We're Reading
Tax on Big Tech in federal budget will bring in $3.4 billion
Research Visualized
Scanning the entire 725-page Federal Budget, we created a word cloud to identify the budget’s most commonly-used words. Excluding some of the most obvious words (Canada, 2021) and more “action-oriented” rather than topic-oriented words (invest, help, generate), the word cloud provides a novel way of approaching the budget. Core topics seem to be related to Indigenous people, gender, businesses, and communities – in essence, these topics appear to be stakeholder-focused, with an emphasis on inclusion. Looking at the outer edges of the word cloud, meanwhile, highlights topics of note in the budget: for example, youth, innovation, pandemic, and manufacturing. For reference, the word “tax” appeared in the budget 695 times, while “technology” appeared 113 times.
Words most commonly used in Budget 2021 (see description for exclusions)
Words most commonly used in Budget 2021 (see description for exclusions)
Twitter Highlights
After 6 months of grueling #cybersecurity training & competitions involving over 5,000 school teams from around the world, Canada’s #CyberTitan teams have been selected and will advance to our #CyberTitanIV National Finals!
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