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Canada’s tech sector is falling behind the rest of the world, says internal government report

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in an armchair discussion with Shopify CEO Tobias Lutke in Toronto on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in an armchair discussion with Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke in Toronto on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Nathan Denette
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Since taking office, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has championed the Canadian tech industry to business and political audiences in the United States and Europe, and at major economic conferences around the world.

In that spirit, Trudeau told a Toronto audience in May that the country needs “a little more swagger” when promoting its achievements in innovation.

But an internal government assessment prepared for a group of industry leaders last October paints a different picture: Canada’s tech sector is falling behind the rest of the world.

“Canada’s position in the [information and communications technology] ICT global market is shrinking,” reads one header in the 20-page assessment, which The Logic obtained through an access to information request.

The document [available exclusively to subscribers here] was prepared in advance of the Digital Industries Economic Strategy Table’s first meeting last November for Graham Flack, deputy heritage minister, John Knubley, deputy innovation minister, and Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke, who chairs the working group of industry leaders convened by the government. The group’s role is to encourage economic growth in Canada’s tech sector.

It lays out several key challenges, among them that Canada is “losing ground to its trading partners,” the outsized role of subsidiaries of foreign companies in Canada’s tech sector and—given the tremendous opportunity in data analytics and machine learning—the harnessing and distribution of data.

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