Federal Budget 2021 invests in research, connectivity and data governance

On April 19, the federal government tabled its 2021 budget: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth and Resilience. The first federal budget tabled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it contained a number of economic measures to address Canada’s path to recovery over the next year and onwards, including expansions to the federal wage and rent subsidies, as well as the Canada Recovery Benefit. 

In addition, Budget 2021 contained a number of commitments relevant to the research, education, technology and innovation sectors. 

Research and Education

  • Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy: $443.8 million over ten years in support of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. This includes $40 million over five years to provide dedicated computing capacity for researchers at the national artificial intelligence institutes in Edmonton, Toronto, and Montréal.
  • National Quantum Strategy: $360 million over seven years, as part of a launch of a National Quantum Strategy to grow quantum-ready technologies, and to continue Canada’s global leadership in AI. This funding will include the establishment of a secretariat at the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to coordinate this work.
  • NSERC College and Community Innovation Program: $46.9 million over two years to support additional research partnerships between colleges, CEGEPs, polytechnics, and businesses through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s College and Community Innovation Program.
  • Mitacs: $708 million over five years to create at least 85,000 work-integrated learning placements that provide on-the-job learning, as well as provide businesses with support to develop talent and grow their operations.
  • CanCode: $80 million over three years to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to develop the next phase of CanCode (the program that funds Cybera and PIMS’ Callysto program), to reach 3 million more students.
  • Shared Services Canada: $300 million to Shared Services Canada over the next three years to repair and replace critical IT infrastructure.

Innovation 

  • Innovation Superclusters Initiative: $60 million over two years  to the Innovation Superclusters Initiative to build successful innovation ecosystems in important areas of the economy, including the digital economy and artificial intelligence.
  • Elevate IP: $90 million to create ElevateIP, a program to help accelerators and incubators provide start-ups with access to expert intellectual property services.
  • Industrial Research Assistance Program: $75 million over three years for the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program to provide high-growth client firms with access to expert intellectual property services.
  • Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative: $250 million over three years to deliver an Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative, to support small and medium-sized firms in improving productivity, strengthening commercialization, and greening their operations and products.

Broadband

  • Universal Broadband Fund: An additional $1 billion over six years will go to the Universal Broadband Fund to support a more rapid rollout of broadband projects, in collaboration with provinces, territories, and other partners. With this increase, the Universal Broadband Fund (first established in the 2019 Budget) will now have $2.75 billion available for broadband infrastructure projects. The fund forms a major part of the government’s High-Speed Access for All: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy, and aims to achieve universal connectivity to high-speed internet for all Canadians by 2030.
  • National Infrastructure Assessment: $22.6 million over four years to Infrastructure Canada to conduct a National Infrastructure Assessment. This assessment would help identify needs and priorities for Canada’s physical infrastructure, including transportation and broadband infrastructure. 
  • Changes to the Telecommunications Act: The government proposes amending the Telecommunications Act to allow the Canadian Radiotelevision and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to share more information with federal, provincial, and territorial broadband partners. They would also be given the authority to take steps to avoid unnecessary delays in the implementation of CRTC decisions to allocate funding to recipients to expand access to telecommunications services in underserved areas.

First Nations Connectivity 

  • Indigenous Community Infrastructure Fund: Budget 2021 proposes distinctions-based investments of $6 billion over five years to support infrastructure in Indigenous communities, including $4.3 billion over four years for the Indigenous Community Infrastructure Fund. This could include funding for broadband network infrastructure. 

Data Governance 

  • Data Commissioner: $17.6 million over five years, and $3.4 million per year ongoing, to create a national Data Commissioner. This Data Commissioner would inform government and business approaches to data-driven issues, focusing on the protection of Canadians’ personal data.
  • First Nations Data Strategy: $73.5 million over three years to continue work towards the development and implementation of a First Nations Data Governance Strategy, and $8 million over three years to create Inuit and Metis Nation Data Strategies.
  • Communications Security Establishment: $456.3 million over five years to Shared Services Canada and the Communications Security Establishment to secure the security of Canadians’ information.
  • Canadian Digital Service: $88 million over four years to renew and expand the capacity of the Canadian Digital Service  to improve how the government delivers digital services to Canadians.

The 2021 Federal Budget is currently being debated in Parliament and is expected to gain royal assent in the coming weeks. Cybera will continue to monitor budget commitments as they are deliberated in parliamentary proceedings, and keep our community updated. 

You can read the full 2021 Budget document here.

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