Bains’ Silicon Valley trip latest in government’s efforts to sell Canada

Navdeep Bains

Last month, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains travelled to Silicon Valley for a two-day tour meant to sell the Canadian tech ecosystem to its US counterparts.

The Minister hoped to highlight Canada’s message of committing to diversity and inclusion and make the case for building in Canada. Speaking with BetaKit, Bains said the government also sends the message of family reunification when selling the Global Skills Strategy. The hope, he said, is to be a “beacon of reliability and stability,”

“We put forward the message that we are open,” said Bains.

Bains met with a roundtable of women entrepreneurs like Connection Silicon Valley CEO Joanne Fedeyko, theBoardlist CEO Shannon Gordon, and Sightline Innovation co-founder and COO Maithili Mavinkurve to discuss building an inclusive environment for women based on their experiences.

“It’s not just the right thing to do for policy, but it’s also good for companies’ bottom line.”
– Navdeep Bains, ISED Minister

A key focus of the trip was to highlight Canada’s AI sector with a Canadian delegation that included Canada’s digital technology supercluster and Element AI representatives. During a C100 reception, Bains spoke to Canada’s supercluster program and how AI and data analytics are at the core of most of these superclusters, and made time to meet with Salesforce and Samsung executives. The latter companies have committed $100 million in a Canadian-focused fund and established a new Canadian AI lab, respectively.

There was also a meeting with the World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution emphasizing its work in areas like AI and machine learning, IoT and connected devices, and blockchain.

“We’re really highlighting the fact that we have a great brand, we have a very comprehensive plan, and we’re going to continue to promote Canada but specifically Canadian companies as well,” Bains said.

Asked whether this trip was a move to contrast US rhetoric in the same week that US president Donald Trump referred to immigrants as animals, Bains denied the two were related.

“The prime minister has visited 16 times…this is an ongoing effort to strengthen a bilateral relationship with the US,” he said.

The trip comes amidst several news reports stating that Canada is undergoing a ‘brain drain’; a recent story from the Globe and Mail referenced a Munk School of Global Affairs Innovation Policy Lab study that found a high number of STEM grads from top Canadian universities were working outside of Canada.

Asked if this trip was in response to the brain drain narrative, Bains pointed to another report indicating that university applications from international applicants are actually increasing, and said that superclusters were would set a foundation for a stronger research and development ecosystem.

“We’re confident we have a good plan in place, and we recognize that talent is mobile and brain circulation is at play, and we recognize people will go abroad — and we’ll be attracting talent in Canada.”

Since the Global Skills Strategy was implemented last June with a two-week fast track visa, the Canadian government has set up several policies with the goal of making the country a more attractive option for highly-skilled tech talent often concentrated in Silicon Valley. The government’s $950 million publicly and privately-funded supercluster program, while meant to bolster homegrown innovation, is regarded as an important way to get the attention of international talent.

“There’s a lot of respect for what Canada is doing. It’s not just the right thing to do for policy, but it’s also good for companies’ bottom line,” said Bains.

Feature photo via Twitter.