A study in December 2019, at the cusp of the pandemic, showed that 97 percent of employer businesses in Canada were considered small businesses, while just under two percent were medium-sized businesses. The remaining percent, under 3,000, were large businesses. This study, from Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), demonstrates the necessity of small and medium sized businesses that employ people and provide products and services to Canadians.
Right now, it’s unclear the lasting impact that COVID-19 has brought to businesses. The pandemic has certainly made things more challenges. Canada has invested money and resources to help businesses stay, or get back, on their feet. Long before the pandemic, however, there has been an emphasis on funding for small and medium-sized businesses.
Not only loans, although loans do play a role in how the government helps, but real grants and contributions that businesses don’t need to fully pay back are available from federal and regional organizations.
Modernization is the main driver of business funding opportunities.
Canada wants to find the next big thing—meaning funds are available to help businesses grow, for products to reach their full potential and for ever-changing innovation as the world of tomorrow enters the forefront. Each year, Canada passes a new budget that focuses on putting businesses of all sizes into the best positions to find success.
For instance, the Innovation and Skills Plan was born in 2017 with a goal of making Canada the global hub for innovation. Within it, regional agencies were established to help foster growth. Since then, the regional economic development agencies have expanded to seven:
- Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
- Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions
- Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
- Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
- Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario
- Prairies Economic Development Canada (focused on Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba)
- Pacific Economic Development Canada (focused on British Columbia)
Funding is available within each agency. This money helps various initiatives that are important to that region. There’s the Atlantic Innovation Fund from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. There’s the Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
Across the seven agencies there’s overlap as far as available programs. The most recent example is the Jobs and Growth Fund, which has $700 million available dispersed through each agency. The fund aims to help job creators and the organizations that support them future proof their businesses, build resiliency and prepare for growth by supporting the transition to a green economy, enhancing Canada’s competitiveness through digital adoption to improve productivity and manufacturing processes and strengthening capacity in sectors critical to Canada’s recovery and growth
In the December 2019 study, ISED broke down sectors by goods-producing and service- producing. The largest goods-producing sector industries include construction, manufacturing and agriculture. Mining, oil and gas extraction and construction also make up the goods- producing sector. Just under 1 million individuals work in the service-producing sector. The major industries include retail trade; professional, scientific and technical services; health care and social assistance and other services that exclude public administration.
The federal government reflects their funding efforts based on the industries that require it. The Natural Research Council, Natural Resources, Transport Canada, Infrastructure Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and ISED offer countless programs based on different objectives. An overriding theme, however, is innovation.
No matter what the future has in store, innovation, especially with small and medium-sized businesses operating within Canada, is where the focus lies and it’s where the funding goes.