Québec’s 2022 budget heavy on R&D, light on addressing tech talent shortage

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Latest budget commits to research, innovation, and life sciences.

The Government of Québec has tabled its 2022-2023 fiscal budget.

The budget, the last before the upcoming provincial election in October, promises to invest heavily in restoring the province’s health care system, addressing cost of living challenges, education, community organizations, and increasing the productivity of Québec’s economy relative to Ontario.

From an innovation standpoint, the province’s latest budget focuses primarily on R&D and life sciences.

From an innovation standpoint, the province’s latest budget focuses primarily on research and development (R&D) and life sciences. Relative to last year’s budget, which prioritized innovation, Québec’s latest spending plans featured less in the way of support for tech entrepreneurs and companies.

As part of its latest budget, Québec has set aside approximately $2.2 billion CAD between now and 2026-2027 to support innovation and research, continue the digital shift, and stimulate investment in new technologies and entrepreneurship. This amount includes $1.3 billion towards implementing its Québec Research and Innovation Strategy (QRIS) and $110 million towards renewing the province’s life sciences strategy.

The province deployed its first innovation zones in February 2020, seeking “to consolidate and strengthen Québec’s advantageous position in the fields of digital technology and quantum science.” QRIS is the foundation of the province’s innovation project, one of five initiatives announced by premier last fall, which aims to consolidate Québec’s research and science expertise, support tech entrepreneurship, and stimulate commercialization of innovations, among other things.

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The Canadian Council of Innovators’ (CCI) government affairs lead in Québec, Pierre Philippe Lortie, praised these commitments. “There are many details yet to be released by the government regarding these plans, but at first blush, it appears these high-level measures will support Québec’s tech sector in the years to come,” said Lortie, who added that the budget also signals the province’s desire to leverage more made-in-Québec technologies to address its health challenges.

The budget also includes $135 million to modernize its vocational training programs “to ensure a larger pool of skilled and qualified workers.” The move follows similar investments made by the Government of Canada and Alberta in recent months. Québec’s budget also committed $290 million towards better integrating immigrants into the province’s job market.

However, Lortie wanted to see the Québec government do more to address the tech talent shortage, which he said poses challenges to the province’s high-growth companies. Despite the strength of the country’s tech talent pools, Canadian tech companies are facing increasing competition from international players for skilled workers, which has reportedly led to significant wage growth at some of Canada’s fastest-growing tech firms.

“The government could increase immigration targets to help ease the tech talent crisis, but the budget was silent on that point,” said Lortie.

RELATED: What impact do provincial budgets have on Canadian tech

Lortie’s wishlist also had “meaningful reform” on Québec’s multimedia tax credit to better support Québec-headquartered companies, which wasn’t included in the province’s budget.

Over on the west coast, British Columbia’s latest provincial budget focused largely on cleantech, while Alberta’s pushed an ambitious innovation strategy that involves expanding enrolment in areas where the province has skills shortages, such as computer science, IT, and FinTech, and building Alberta into an artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum tech leader.

Alberta also recently took another important step towards addressing its tech talent shortage, rolling out its tech worker immigration stream following calls from the community.

Despite Québec’s latest budget’s limited focus on tech, it notably comes shortly after the merger of two of Montréal’s most notable innovation organizations—Montréal Inc and Bonjour Startup Montréal—which have since teamed up to launch a new provincially-funded program designed to spur late-stage growth in Québec’s tech ecosystem.

Feature image by Adrien Olichon via Unsplash.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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