Shawn Dhue is an IPilogue Writer and a 2L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
As I searched for a topic for this blog post, I encountered a common theme: the Canadian technology sector is constantly asking for more action from the Canadian government aimed at fostering innovation in the community. Whether creating laws to help govern start-ups, eliminating laws to encourage innovation, or collaborating with other countries to combine resources, the sector alleges the Canadian government is missing vital opportunities to benefit Canadians.
One of my most recent blog posts covered the intellectual property, technology, and energy platform points from the Liberal Party and Green Party. Many share the view that both of these parties, and in fact every party, lacked points in these areas. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have been under fire in the news for making announcements to help the “energy revolution” but failing to implement effective measures.
I have outlined below a few sectors which need innovation to expand. I hope to leave readers informed enough to form their own opinions on what government action is necessary and to pique their interest in what happens next and what other sectors need fixing.
The importance of climate change has become clear over the last decade and the issue played a major role in the most recent Federal election. Trying to cut down fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions, the Canadian innovation and technology sectors look to innovators to patent new, less wasteful creations.
In December 2020, the Government of Canada released a new climate plan: “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy.”. The plan states that Canada will exceed its 2030 Paris Agreement emissions reductions goals and lay a foundation for net-zero emissions by 2050. However, Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis that tracks governments’ climate action plans, has deemed Canada’s plans to be “highly insufficient.”
To effectively combat climate change, Canada must invest more into innovation and intellectual property to create new jobs and effective methods of reducing emissions. Investment is necessary to become a leader of the “green industrial revolution.” Put simply by David Crane: “Announcing billion-dollar programs and declaring us a world leader is one thing, but actually having a plan that delivers measurable results with actual accomplishments is quite another.
The Pharmaceutical Sector
Another major global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, has illustrated Canada’s strengths and weaknesses in the pharmaceutical industry. According to the Conference Board of Canada: “Canada continues to exhibit relatively weak innovation performance.” In their Innovation Report Card 2021, Canada earned a grading level of D in patents. This grade is reflected by Canada’s lack of investment into COVID-19 vaccine research. Prime Minister Trudeau even admitted the lack of effort and vowed to make change.
In a recent article, Aled Edwards and Max Morgan offer a solution to this issue for when the next global pandemic arrives: “to adopt a new pharmaceutical policy based on open science.” Edwards and Morgan view the current Canadian policies as playing well politically but failing to drive innovative intellectual property in the pharmaceutical sector.
Research & Development (R&D)
Joel Bilt points out that Canada is the only G7 country “to have experienced a decline in R&D spending as a fraction of GDP over the last 20 years.” This decline is one of the instances where the community is asking the government to eliminate laws to allow the innovation sector to grow. Bilt writes: “A further important lever is the weakening of intellectual property rights so that our small and medium firms have increased freedom to operate.” Currently, most Canadian innovators are looking internationally to patent ideas, and the trend is growing. Positively, ideas are growing and more Canadian inventors need patents. However, a growing number of these inventors are not using the domestic patent system.
It is no secret that Canada’s R&D has experienced a decline in the last few decades. The question is what the country can do now, and in the future, to help the domestic R&D sector grow and expand. Whether by creating accessible paths to more patents, increasing education and funding, or an alternative route, it is up to the Government of Canada to act.