No clarity on commitment to innovation in B.C.

Feb 24, 2020 | 41-5, Blog, Governance, Technology, Video | 0 comments


The BC NDP government released their economic framework a few weeks back. There was no fanfare and in the end it was almost as if there was no 90-page document outlining their economic agenda.

There is a lot in the framework that I take issue with and I will be exploring that in the coming weeks. I’m starting with how the government views the role of innovation and technology.

Thankfully innovation and the emerging economy ranks at least in the top five focus areas of quality economic growth in their plan. However, when we start to dig in and ask questions there are some huge flags on just how much the government is willing to do, compared to how much they say they are doing.

This is a key area of inquiry. It begins to daylight how much the government is going to be leaning on the economy of the past (harvesting non-renewable resources) and their commitment to preparing the culture of government to accept the ever emerging economy.

I start by asking about the money they say they are investing in innovation and technology.

[Transcript]

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR TECHNOLOGY SECTOR AND INDUSTRY TAX CREDITS

A. Olsen:

Two weeks ago the government released its economic framework. It supposedly provides an organizing framework for the work of this government.

In the section on investments in technology and innovation, it states that the government “will contribute more than $700 million to technology programming, including in technology-focused educational programs, tax credits programming for technology companies, incubator and accelerator programs delivered by the Innovate B.C. Crown corporation, technology-focused procurement opportunities and the development of innovation clusters.”

My question is to the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness. Does this $700 million in technology programming include the Film Incentive B.C. tax credit, the production services tax credit and the interactive digital media tax credit?

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Members. Okay. Back to question period.

Hon. M. Mungall:

Thank you to the member for his question. I know he and his colleague as well as the independent member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head have a deep passion for innovation and technology and all the opportunities that it brings British Columbia — not just British Columbia, but opportunities in terms of a global perspective and what we’re able to offer the world, particularly when we talk about our clean tech sector but also, let me add, in terms of our medical technology sector.

I was able to tour several businesses on Friday, one of them being MetaOptima and the work that they’re doing in Vancouver around drone technology and diagnostics for dermatology and dermatological illnesses. It’s really amazing to see the work that British Columbians are doing and what they’re offering the world. I’m very proud to be involved in what they’re doing, as the Minister Responsible for Technology.

In terms of the member’s question, the incentives and the work that we’re doing as government to support this industry and what it’s able to do are very numerous. He mentioned the digital media tax credit. That is something that we are very proud of. It’s one of a number of tax credits. That tax credit…. In particular, in Budget 2020, we’ve increased it from $55 million to $70 million to support small and large tech businesses all around the province.

Mr. Speaker:

Leader Third Party on a supplemental.

A. Olsen:

I guess, I’m troubled by the vagueness of the answer. The question was provided in advance because we’re looking for a very specific answer to this.

I asked the minister if — in the $700 million number that’s given in the economic framework, the government’s own economic framework — the Film Incentive B.C. tax credit, the production services tax credit and the interactive digital media tax credit were included in that. I asked specifically because in our reading of the budget, it looks as if $637 million is what those equal to, leaving the remainder of that to be the actual investment.

I’m wondering if the minister can answer the question. Does the $700 million in the technology programming include those three tax credits, which I’ve outlined now twice?

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Members, if you could at least wait till the minister opens her mouth.

Hon. M. Mungall:

That would be nice, hon. Speaker. It’s such an honour just to stand up and get heckled. Really, it is.

To answer the member’s question, I want to highlight some of the things that we are doing to support the B.C. tech sector that would be involved in that $700 million.

Interjections.

Hon. M. Mungall:

I don’t know that the Third Party member is really that enthusiastic about the Liberal’s heckling on his behalf. I think he just wants to hear the answer.

The B.C. tech fund has committed over $65 million in venture capital funding to nine funds and made six direct investments into B.C.–based companies. That $65 million has leveraged over $549 million in further investment in 29 companies, and that has created over 1,000 family-supporting jobs right here in B.C.

To help connect communities and businesses, we are investing $50 million to expand high-speed Internet to more than 479 rural and Indigenous communities to enable them to participate in today’s economy. And we are providing $17 million over the next five years to establish the quantum algorithms institute.

We are doing so much for the tech sector. We have so many opportunities to support them. I heard many of what those opportunities have done for small businesses, start-ups, and how they’re scaling up in my tours of them, whether it be in Nelson or Vancouver. I would love to give the member a full list. I don’t think question period is long enough. I don’t think he’s going to hear it with all the heckling going on either.


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