BC Tech: Budget 2022

Last week’s announcement from Dr Bonnie Henry easing COVID-19 public health restrictions in BC brought with it an air of optimism. It almost felt as if a two-year hibernation was finally over with the NDP emerging to announce that Spring is here. Finally, we can look to the future!

Also last week Premier Horgan and Minister Kahlon shared the BC government’s long-awaited Economic Plan which emphasized the need to build a people-centered economy in BC with an emphasis on Clean and Inclusive growth. Today, Minister Robinson unveiled BC’s 2022 Budget which repeated the themes of climate change and investing in people.

There were measures in today’s Budget that BC’s tech sector welcomes:

We were pleased to see the announcement of funding to connect another 280 First Nations, rural and remote communities to high-speed internet. Connectivity plays a key role in ensuring all BC residents have access to the opportunities of remote education and employment.

We were pleased to see continued investment in rapid skilling and reskilling programs like those BC Tech delivers to help workers displaced by COVID retrain for a tech career. More information here.

We were pleased to see further investments in child care spaces, both preschool and for before and after school care.

We were pleased to see the emphasis on CleanBC, a climate plan with a strong economic component. Technology solutions are critical to reducing emissions and the greening of the global economy will be technology-led. BC Tech has partnered with Vancity to launch a Technology Impact Award for Gamechanger in Climate Solutions to recognize the amazing work being done by BC’s innovators in this space. Later this year we aim to deliver a program to support BC’s small and medium sized companies reduce their GHG emissions using technology.

And we were delighted to see $200 million provided in grants to Genome BC and Michael Smith Health Research BC, foundational organizations in BC’s life sciences sector.

But it seems the groundhog has seen his shadow and full economic spring will be delayed.

In the last year BC Tech has released two economic reports: A New Economic Narrative & BC’s Fiscal Future and on Friday will release: ‘Advancing BC’s Manufacturing Sector’. These reports challenge the prevailing and long out of date view of BC’s economy. Over 30 years a massive shift has occurred as we’ve become a knowledge and technology-led, service-based economy: today, 75% of BC’s GDP, 80% of BC’s jobs and 50% of BC’s exports are in the services sector.

BC Tech shares many of the values expressed in the BC government’s economic plan. We welcome many measures in today’s Budget. We believe that in the 21st century economy, people are the greatest asset and source of value. We believe education and skills training is essential to realize the full potential of BC’s talent pool. We believe investing in the economic infrastructure that support people is as important as that which supports goods.

But we also believe BC’s economic measures can be more bold. We can lean into the opportunities that come with change and the sectors that deliver both economic growth and sustainable jobs right across the province. We can double the size of BC’s tech sector and create more than 150,000 new jobs over the next decade. We can, with the right ScaleUP BC supports, help many more of BC’s 11,000+ tech companies than the 2% who achieve it today to scale into medium sized companies employing 100 or more.

There’s a saying: ‘In a moving stream, you forge ahead or fall behind’. In today’s world, playing it ‘safe’ is the new risky.