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‘Go ahead and brag!’ – Communitech

Modesty is a virtue but, when you’re really good at something, go ahead and brag.

That was just one of the many upbeat messages delivered today by Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, who spent several hours at the Communitech Hub in Kitchener.

“I want all Canadians to really appreciate that Canada is not an aspiring technology power – Canada has totally arrived,” she said. “We are great at technology, we are great at tech startups, and Communitech is one of the most important engines for how that has happened and how we’re going to continue to own that podium.”

Freeland, who’s using Parliament’s summer recess to consult across the country about the government’s 2022 budget commitments, visited Communitech to meet with area tech founders and leaders

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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland tries out the RCAF flight simulator.

(Communitech photo: Anthony Reinhart)

During a tour of the Communitech facility, she tried out a flight simulator based in the RCAF’s innovation space and spoke to tech workers from several companies and organizations. 

“Seeing the work that you are doing here, talking to people, it has made me excited all over again about the present-day reality and the future of technology,” she said. “Communitech is exactly the kind of organization our economy and our country needs. You attract world-class talent, you champion innovation and you are driving the creation of tens of thousands of great jobs for Canadians.”

During a news conference, reporters asked Freeland about a range of topics, from inflation to fast-tracking health workers with foreign credentials and support for Ukraine in repelling the Russian invasion.

On the current economic turbulence, Freeland said the federal government has an affordability plan to help ordinary people and to help business owners adapt to economic challenges, as well as new supports for the tech sector.

“I do want Canadians to be confident that our economy is fundamentally strong,” she said. “There are big challenges in the global economy but as a country we have the strength, we have the institutions that are going to be able to cope with it, to bring things back into balance.”

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Freeland urged Canadians not to forget the struggles that ordinary Ukrainians are living day in and day out.

“This truly is a battle between democracy and dictatorship, and we have to ensure that Ukraine wins,” said Freeland, the daughter of a Ukrainian mother, and a former student of Russian history who spent time studying at the University of Kyiv. “I think right now, we, the leading democracies of the world, have to be really focused on providing the brave people of Ukraine with the support they need to win. What does that mean? It means financial support, it means military support and weapons, and it means constantly ratcheting up the sanctions pressure on Russia.”

Freeland also participated in a roundtable meeting with founders and tech leaders. One of the main topics was the importance of immigration policies that make it easier for the world’s smartest and most experienced tech workers to come work in Canada. Another hot topic was investment, especially the need for Canadian institutional investors and venture capitalists to invest more in Canadian tech companies

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Minister Freeland in conversation with Waterloo Region tech leaders.

(Communitech photo: Sara Jalali)

Regarding immigration, Freeland said Canada’s immigration-friendly policies are a competitive advantage over many other countries. But we can’t become complacent about our traditional openness to immigration, she said, and she urged tech leaders to keep speaking out about the need for policies that welcome smart, talented newcomers.

Communitech CEO Chris Albinson thanked Freeland for the government’s support on numerous issues related to the tech industry. In particular, he highlighted the $30 million that the federal government provided in its 2022 budget to help Communitech and the Coordinated Accessible National Health Network (CAN Health) accelerate the adoption of Canadian-made innovation through an “integrated markets” approach to health-care procurement processes. 

Freeland is no stranger to Communitech or Waterloo Region. She first visited the Communitech Hub in Kitchener back in 2016 when, as Canada’s newly minted Minister of International Trade, she unveiled an export support program for small and medium-sized businesses.

“It is so inspiring to be back and to learn about the amazing things you and your partners have accomplished since then,” she said.

"Communitech helps tech-driven companies start, grow and succeed. Communitech was founded in 1997 by a group of entrepreneurs committed to making Waterloo Region a global innovation leader. At the time it was crazy talk, but somehow this community managed to pull it off. Today, Communitech is a public-private innovation hub that supports a community of more than 1400 companies — from startups to scale-ups to large global players. Communitech helps tech companies start, grow and succeed in three distinct ways: - Communitech is a place – the center of gravity for entrepreneurs and innovators. A clubhouse for building cool shit and great companies. - Communitech delivers programs – helping companies at all stages with access to capital, customers and talent. We are here to help them grow and innovate. - Communitech partners in building a world-leading ecosystem – making sure we have all the ingredients (and the brand) to go from a small startup to a global giant."

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