Photo: Canada's booming clean technology industry will bust without political support

(Credit: Shutterstock)

By Steve Kux, Communications & Research Specialist and Ian Bruce, Science and Policy Manager

Canada's opportunity to become a global leader in innovation and clean technology may be slipping away, according to a new report released today by Analytica Advisors. The fourth installment of their annual report on the state of this increasingly important industry says that Canada has lost 41 per cent of its global market share since 2008 — the third largest loss of any country measured.

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It's not too late to turn this trend. Canada's clean technology companies continue to demonstrate that rapid economic growth is the rule, not the exception. The industry as a whole grew four times faster than the overall Canadian economy last year and now employs 50,000 people in more than 800 firms. Clean technology employment in Canada now exceeds forestry, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and aerospace manufacturing. One-fifth of these employees are under the age of 30, showing that clean technology is the industry of the future. If the sector can maintain its eight per cent growth rate, it will employ 100,000 Canadians by 2022.

Instead of diversifying Canada's economy, over the past decade the federal government has focused on boosting the fossil fuel sector. The risks of a one-resource-based economic plan are showing up now in the wake of falling oil prices.

Though Canada's clean tech sector is growing quickly, it's underperforming and losing ground to other countries that have made innovation a key economic priority for the 21st century.

Today, Canada's clean tech market represents 1.3 per cent of that industry's global market, while Canada represents 2.5 percent of the total global economy. Achieving just our market potential would contribute $50 billion to the Canadian economy (up from nearly $12 billion today).

Canada's clean technology companies occupy ten distinct sectors, from power generation to transportation, water, wastewater and agriculture. That means the industry is more resilient to changing market conditions than fossil fuels — which get far more political support. The new report's number one recommendation is that government leaders make a stronger effort to support the clean technology industry through provincial- and federal -level energy policies, as well as by increasing access to debt for companies involved. The report also says it's time to end the jobs vs. environment debate that has distracted Canada while other countries that have invested in clean tech reap economic rewards.

Change is already underway in Canada. In Ontario, the provincial government is investing in public transportation while increasing renewable energy capacity. Even Alberta, the home of the oil and gas sector and Canada's greatest carbon emitter, uses revenue from its high-emitters carbon tax to invest in clean technology.

Let's step up our national commitment and recognition of this rapidly growing industry before it's too late. In the past, Canada's early leadership in biotechnology and cable and satellite industries slipped away because of reluctant political support. It's foolish to let that happen again. Canadian policy needs to embrace the future in the same way its entrepreneurs and citizens already have. Otherwise, we'll be left in the dust.

May 27, 2015

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