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Honourable Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta
Honourable Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance
Honourable Tanya Fir, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism
Honourable Nate Glubish, Minister of Service Alberta
Dear Premier Kenney, Minister Toews, Minister Fir and Minister Glubish,
Now. More than ever.
Communities, nations and industries are banding together as we collectively fight to balance public health with the viability of our economy. The post-crisis economy is taking shape, and we all must play a role in returning this country and province to sustainable economic prosperity. For Albertans, this crisis is compounded by the simultaneous collapse of oil prices as predatory overproduction flooded the market from Saudi Arabia and Russia.
This is a crisis like none we’ve faced before.
Alberta’s technology ecosystem is deeply linked to Alberta’s energy sector, as we create clean technology and digital solutions that drive our province’s core industry to improve productivity, decrease both costs and its environmental footprint. Across all Alberta industries, International Data Corporation (IDC) Canada estimated that $18.7 billion would be spent on digitization and innovation in the next three years. Our community of entrepreneurs and innovators will be a crucial component of this movement, making technology an essential part of Alberta’s economic growth and diversification story.
As tech leaders, investors and talent, we have been working hard to help our companies grow and succeed. We were encouraged as global market leaders emerged in our cities, adding thousands of new jobs and millions in new revenue to the economy. Prior to the recent crisis, Alberta tech generated $15.6 billion in GDP1 and employed approximately 68,500 people in core digital and technology positions2. Behind those successes and budding startups is an innovation ecosystem that has been cultivated to support them.
These are the companies that will help drive Alberta’s pivot towards diversifying its economy.
Unfortunately, the momentum we’ve gained is at risk as companies see customers, jobs and revenue evaporate as a result of the current economic crisis. If all levels of government do not take immediate action, our ecosystem could be severely damaged and negate the progress we have made towards creating the Alberta economy of the future.
We’re in this together.
Three weeks ago, more than 175 Alberta-based technology entrepreneurs came forward with the immediate challenges they face, the greatest of which are the devastating loss of customers and cash flow, as well as access to supply chains. Their survival is in jeopardy.
In the face of this adversity, our ecosystem has come together with solutions and support for the recovery of our tech community. Innovators across the province have stepped up to support one another – and the broader economy; from COVID vaccine development and virtual patient care for physicians across Canada to Alberta breweries and distilleries pivoting to hand sanitizer production and the launch of CODEVID, the world’s first global pandemic hackathon, the entrepreneurial spirit and technology know-how that is resident in Albertans has stepped up. Big time.
Albertans can be proud of the work being done to respond to and help stop the pandemic.
But we need support. Now.
Our community applauds recent initiatives announced by the Government of Canada to provide targeted support to the innovation economy through the National Research Council and Western Economic Diversification. These investments will pay off. Before the current global crisis, the technology startup ecosystem was a leading source of global economic growth. Canada — and Alberta – were part of this. We cannot afford to neglect one of the most promising means of ensuring future prosperity for our province and country. This crisis puts tech companies and the ecosystem that supports them at risk. These federal measures will help immensely.
Because without the technology, analytics and artificial intelligence at work today, finding a vaccine for the Coronavirus would take much longer. We would also be at a disadvantage in our fight to stop the spread. Thanks to tech, we can shop for groceries and meals, visit our doctor or work from home.
That’s why supporting our technology and innovation system is critical. We urge the Government of Alberta to consider and act upon recommendations put forward by the Innovation Capital Working Group, a trusted panel of experts appointed by the government to address precisely the challenges we face today.
In addition, our community requests the following specific policy interventions:
- Incent the flow of private capital through matching funds that de-risk early-stage investment in an uncertain environment;
- Utilize the purchasing power of the Government of Alberta and Alberta’s municipalities to become a customer of Alberta-made tech, especially those firms that have already established themselves as global players that are now facing slowing growth or decline due to the crisis
This tenacious community of innovators and entrepreneurs have been working to build solutions and businesses that are the foundation of the new economy. Alberta is known for its entrepreneurial spirit, and we have always risen to the challenge of extraordinary times. Getting through this crisis will take innovation, grit and perseverance. The Information and Communications Technology Council believes this community could generate an additional 9,000 jobs, getting Albertans right back to work to help with the economic recovery. This will grow the sector from the current 68,500 to 77,500 by 2023. Looking further, we believe that Alberta’s technology sector could expand to 100,000 high paying jobs by 2030.
With the right support, we will emerge with the next generation of startups ready to grow and reach outward, bringing Albertan and Canadian entrepreneurship and solutions to the world. As job-creators and attractors of global investment, the tech and innovation sector remains committed to working with all levels of government during these unprecedented times.
This isn’t just about surviving a crisis. This is about working together to ensure Alberta leads the way on the national stage during recovery.
Now, more than ever is the time to support our innovators and entrepreneurs.
Alberta’s technology and innovation ecosystem
cc: David Knight Legg, Kristopher Barker and Larry Kaumeyer
- Invest Alberta Industry Profiles
- A Digital Future for Alberta (2018), the Information and Communication Technology Council (ICTC)