How can the Federal Government Help Drive Energy Innovation in Canada?

VIEWS FROM OUR POLITICAL COMMENTATORS: NDP, CONSERVATIVE AND LIBERAL

BY KATHLEEN MONK

BY KATHLEEN MONK

Stephen Harper’s decision to start campaigning early and thrust Canadians into the longest election in modern history was not an example of political innovation. Sitting governments have long used their incumbency to fix election timing to their own advantage.  That said, politics has been a driver of innovation in recent election cycles, with advances like micro-targeting emerging to help political operatives identify, understand and persuade voters.

Innovation, in politics and in government, is essential to progress.

So, yes governments should have a role in driving technology innovation. And governments with vision and imagination do exactly that.

Mariana Mazzucato has written extensively about this in her book, “The Entrepreneurial State,” arguing that government should be regarded as the investor, risk-taker, innovator.

Mazzucato passionately makes the argument that countries achieve innovation-led growth when governments make imaginative investments with impact.  She points to the effects of government involvement in early-stage development of industries such as the internet and semiconductors.

Tom Mulcair has suggested that one way to boost innovation, research and development in Canada would be to introduce a new Innovation Tax Credit to encourage manufacturers and businesses to invest in machinery, equipment and property to further innovation and increase productivity. Mulcair’s New Democrats recognize that government can be a catalyst for technological innovation.

“The government can be a catalyst for technological innovation.”

“The government can be a catalyst for technological innovation.”

The renewable energy industry is one area that would benefit from increased government involvement. Right now, Canada lags in access to venture capital and business R&D expenditure in renewable energy technology and production. Government can help unlock that capital with a tax credit that rewards innovation.

“Innovation, in politics and in government, is essential to progress.”

There is an estimated 700 clean tech companies in Canada that generate 52,000 jobs and contribute $10-billion to the economy and predictions are that clean tech will grow to as much as $62-billion by 2020, but achieving significant growth in this sector will require principled leadership.

Principled leadership means we need a government that doesn’t muzzle federal scientists, provides public data openly so that Canadians can learn and build upon tax-payer funded research that could lead to innovations in the private sector. Government can also be an early adopter of new technologies to help grow Canada’s hi-tech companies.

Principled leadership means we need a government that can have constructive conversations with Premiers, so that we can work with provinces to support a Canadian clean energy strategy.

Principled leadership means we need a government that can seize upon the incredible opportunity that exists in the global market for clean technology and make a plan to capitalize on it.

For the past 10 years we have not had that principled leadership in Ottawa… hopefully on October 19th that will change.

Kathleen Monk is a senior communications strategist and frequent media commentator on politics and public affairs. She was the catalyst behind the Broadbent Institute, as its founding Executive Director, and served as spokesperson and media director for Jack Layton’s 2011 election campaign, which resulted in the best election result in the party’s 50-year history.


BY TIM POWERS

BY TIM POWERS

Innovation is and will remain the key factor in supporting Canada’s economic future, particularly in our energy industry, and the federal government, as well as the provinces, plays an essential role in driving it.

Canada has been blessed with vast energy resources, but they are not always the easiest to extract and get to market. In order to remain competitive in an environment where energy-rich countries are constantly looking to one up one-another, Canada’s government must invest in research and innovation.

Dollar signThe federal government plays a crucial role in driving innovation in the energy sector. Over its tenure, the Harper government has created an environment where innovation is encouraged. Whether it is through investments from the National Research Council or from Natural Resources Canada there is no shortage of innovation funds in Canada.

In the 2015 federal budget it was announced that the government would provide the National Research Council with $120 million over two years to support business-driven research and innovation initiatives across the country. This program has had success partnering with the energy industry in the past. For example, Canadian Natural Resources Limited and Pond Biofuels have partnered with the Council to develop a demonstration-scale algal biorefinery, which will use algae to transform industrial carbon dioxide emissions from Canadian Natural’s Primrose South oil sands site into commercial products such as fuel for airplanes.

“The federal government plays a crucial role in driving innovation in the energy sector.”

“The federal government plays a crucial role in driving innovation in the energy sector.”

Since the 2011 federal budget, Natural Resources Canada has funded the ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative. The program’s objective is to support energy technology innovation to produce and use energy in a cleaner and more efficient way. Projects currently being funded under the ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative represent a broad interest in energy innovation in Canada in areas such as bioenergy, renewables, and coal and carbon capture, amongst others. One project currently being funded is exploring the potential of deep geothermal electricity production in Quebec in Atlantic Canada.

Canada’s vast natural resource pool coupled with the strength of our research and innovation networks is allowing Canada to maintain its position as trailblazers with emerging technologies in the energy industry. In order to remain a leader in the global energy industry, Canada’s government has to continue to foster an environment whereby research and innovation is encouraged and rewarded.

Since 2011, NRCan has funded the ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative.

Since 2011, NRCan has funded the ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative.

Innovate or die – it is simple as that.

Tim Powers, is the Vice-Chairman of Summa Strategies Canada and the managing partner of Abacus Data, both headquarter are in Ottawa. Mr. Powers appears regularly on CBC’s Power and Politics program as well as on VOCM in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.


BY STEPHEN HAMPTON

BY STEPHEN HAMPTON

In May of 1961, President Kennedy announced before Congress that the United States would put a man on the moon within the decade. Less than ten years later, Neil Armstrong took man’s first step on the moon calling it “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” President Kennedy understood that space exploration and technological innovation were imperative to the success of the United States and did what he could to see it happen.

Governments have always played a fundamental role in fostering and investing in innovation and technology. Now, due to climate change, governments all over the world are being faced with questions surrounding their involvement in new and emerging technology and innovation, specifically renewable energy sources. Canada, a traditional energy superpower, is at a key defining moment in our history as we move forward. The governing Tories are content with the status quo of ignoring renewable energy innovation while supporting the nonrenewable energy sector. Alternatively, the Liberal party is looking to further work with Canada’s energy sector in tandem with making Canada the most attractive and competitive environment in the world for new energy innovation and investments.

The role of government isn’t to control what is being researched or to dictate how the research is being done. The role of government is to create an environment and provide the resources that foster and encourage innovation to happen. A perfect example of this in Canada is to invest in renewable and alternative fuel sources. A Liberal government has committed to provide up to $300 million annually to support and encourage new innovative technologies for companies in Canada.

“Canada has the opportunity to be world leaders in new and emerging energy technology.”

The government can play a fundamental role in innovation and technology, not by controlling or interfering in the free market but by working with the private sector to help foster and grow Canada’s role as an innovative hub for investment and research.

“The government can play a fundamental role in innovation and technology.”

“The government can play a fundamental role in innovation and technology.”

As investors begin to realize the opportunities with new energy sources they are beginning to look for companies, startups, and countries to invest in. The Canadian government has a real opportunity to make Canada an attractive place for this investment by offering tax benefits and cuts for new technology investments.

Over fifty years ago, President Kennedy said they would put a man on the moon within the decade and they did. Canada now has the opportunity to say we will be world leaders in new and emerging energy technology within the decade and there is no reason we shouldn’t be.

Stephen Hampton is a Consultant at Crestview Strategy, a public affairs agency with offices in Toronto and Ottawa. Stephen started his career on Parliament Hill and has worked for political campaigns at all levels of government.