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OTTAWA—A new innovation agenda for the country will help retool the economy to boost economic prospects for everything from high-tech firms to traditional manufacturing, Finance Minister Bill Morneau says.
The so-called “Innovation Agenda” will refine how Ottawa works with post-secondary institutions, provinces, not-for-profit organizations and the private sector to help Canadian firms compete in a changing global economy.
“If you look at successful innovation strategies around the world, they can be very helpful in growing an economy,” Morneau said in an interview with the Star on Thursday in his Parliament Hill office.
The finance minister says the Liberals’ first budget took some initial steps on that agenda, with its promise of financial assistance to offset the costs of post-secondary education and investments in academic science and research.
Such investments in education are key to help prepare young people for a rapidly changing workplace, Morneau said.
“We need to push hard to make sure that people are getting the kind of education that is going to make them resilient against those challenges and creating the environment that fosters innovative growth,” he said.
“The students of today are the innovators of tomorrow,” he said.
The budget also commits $ 800 million over four years to promote the creation of innovations clusters like what exists in Waterloo, Ont., today, where education and business co-exist and create an “ecosystem of growth.”
“How do we do that across the country and what sectors do we do that in?” Morneau said. “You’re going to hear more from us.
“I think what we need to do is now focus on how we grow the economy because that’s going to create the conditions more employment, better employment.”
He said Toronto enjoys many vibrant sectors of the economy, such as digital firms and the financial sector. But along Hwy. 401, southern Ontario communities have been hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs.
Morneau said the government’s innovation agenda can help keep those jobs and win them back.
“If you talk to those manufacturers . . . I think what they would say is for us to be successful in manufacturing, we need to be highly innovative, the manufacturer that is using the newest and best approaches,” Morneau said.
He noted that the Liberal budget extends funding for the automotive innovation fund. And he said the country’s resource sector has been on the cutting edge of innovation and will benefit even more by promised infrastructure investments.