By the Numbers: #Tech and the BC Budget

By Kathleen Reid

April 26, 2021

With the new federal budget being such a tough act to follow – at least as far as innovation funding is concerned – it comes as no surprise that many tech insiders are underwhelmed by the 2021 BC Budget, which fails to address stated priorities such as strategies for growing the tech ecosystem and the establishment of innovation clusters. Still, Budget 2021 does allocate billions of dollars to tech-related endeavours. How many billions? Let’s break it down:

Education and training

  • $3.8 billion in total capital spending over the next three years by post-secondary institutions throughout the province. These investments aim to build capacity and help meet the province’s future workforce and economic development needs in key sectors, including technology, health, science and trades. This includes the construction of a new $88-million health science building at British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Burnaby campus, and $10 million to modernize space to expand programming focused on the tech sector at BCIT’s downtown Vancouver and Burnaby campuses.
  • $5 million for micro-credential training that provides options for British Columbians looking to retrain for new career opportunities. Initial funding has been used to deliver 25 micro-credential courses to an estimated 2,000 students, with “skills in blockchain foundations and applications” and “skills in industrial automation: programmable logic controller” among the subjects. The new funding is being used to develop an additional 30 courses. The flexibility of micro-credential programs will improve accessibility to post-secondary education, particularly for women, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and people with multiple barriers who struggle with the financial, time or physical ability requirements associated with taking a full program. 
  • $4 million to continue short-term skills training programs to support unemployed or underemployed individuals to train in high demand sectors such as tech, construction, healthcare and child care to ensure graduating students are well positioned to secure employment. 

Jobs

  • $36 million for pandemic and recovery contingencies. This includes $15 million to expand the Innovator Skills Initiative program that provides up to $10,000 in funding for businesses to hire a post-secondary student or non-student youth into a tech or tech-enabled position. This creates 3,000 job placements for industry-certified youth in a high-opportunity sector with higher-than-average wages. 

Business support

  • $500 million in financing to support the new InBC Strategic Investment Fund that aims to help attract and anchor high-growth businesses, talent and jobs in B.C. The budget noted InBC would make decisions on investments, but would be given specific criteria for investment by the province. These criteria may include how well a business promotes the decarbonization of the economy or furthers reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. It is anticipated the fund will be active later in the 2021-22 fiscal year.
  • $195 million to continue the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant Program, which has been streamlined and expanded to ensure more businesses can access up to $45,000 in provincial grant funding that can be used to support their recovery and adapt to COVID-19. This may include diversifying their business to include new services, modifying physical space, offsetting fixed costs such as rent, or growing the business by moving online.

Health care

  • $7.8 billion on expanding and upgrading health facilities. These investments support new major construction projects and upgrading of health facilities, medical and diagnostic equipment, and information management and technology systems. 

Cleantech

  • $506 million to support the CleanBC climate and economic plan. This includes $269 million in new operating and capital funding for clean transportation, energy efficient buildings and communities, and other cleantech and climate change initiatives. It also includes $96 million more for the CleanBC Program for Industry in alignment with scheduled carbon tax increases, while adjusting for the delayed increase to the tax in April 2020 that provided relief to businesses and families from the pandemic. 
  • $60 million in one-time funding for the Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy, and for cleantech investments to support partnership opportunities with the federal government. Announced as part of the StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan, the Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy will support the development and commercialization of clean technology in B.C., creating good jobs and supporting technological advancements required to transition to a low-carbon future.

Infrastructure

  • $40 million to provide reliable high-speed broadband to rural, remote and Indigenous communities. 
  • $123 million for Liquor Distribution Branch projects, including investments for updates and improvements to liquor stores, expansion of cannabis stores, tech-related projects and ongoing operating equipment replacements.

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