Small Word, Big Implications: What #ELXN43 Means for Tech in Canada

Maggie Hall

Small Word, Big Implications: What #ELXN43 Means for Tech in Canada

The advance polls are officially closed, and Election Day is fast approaching. After a final (often tumultuous and sometimes inaudible) week of Federal leader debates, most of Canada’s major parties have released official platforms on their vision for the country’s tech economy.

Technology is one of those nebulous words that applies to such a huge breadth of industries, it can be hard to understand a party’s full plan. Clean tech and how Canada may rethink its relationships with FAANG and other Big Tech firms have been popular topics in #elxn43 – in fact, five of the major parties have aligned in their promise to tax large, multinational tech companies. But what about data privacy and cyber security? Telecoms and the rise of AI? Home-grown tech versus international competition?

Tech can be an overwhelming topic to cover, but we’ll be making choices on October 21st that will impact Canada’s future for years to come. KLC has put together a helpful breakdown of the various party platforms to help guide your strategic communications plan – and maybe even your vote.

Liberal Party of Canada

On Big Tech firms, the Liberals – in rare policy agreement with their peers across the aisle – will levy a corporate tax on multinational tech firms based on revenue generated within Canada. In addition, businesses in key parts of the digital economy will be subject to a three per cent income tax, provided their worldwide and Canadian revenues cross the threshold of $1 billion and $40 million, respectively.

Canadians telecom rates continue to be a pain point in national dialogues (and bank accounts). Should a Liberal government be elected on October 21, Canadians are promised a 25 per cent reductions in their phone bills. As equitable digital access becomes an increasingly important part of Canadians’ everyday lives, the Liberals also commit to cross-Canada high-speed internet by 2030.

The Liberals’ plans to stimulate investments in and development of clean technology involves many cuts, including a proposal to halve corporate tax rates for businesses that develop zero-emission technologies or products.

A key area that often doesn’t receive much time on the election stage – but absolutely should – is data privacy. To this end, the Liberals would create a digital charter to dictate online rights, data collection and data privacy, overseen by the Privacy Commissioner. This platform extends to social media platforms and includes fines for not implementing safeguards or efficiently dealing with hate speech.

Conservative Party of Canada

Like their federal peers, Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives would also implement a tax on Big Tech, particularly those who host social media platforms, online marketplaces or search engines. The tax would be applied on companies with revenues over $1 billion globally and $50 million in Canada. Through this initiative, the party estimates $2.5 billion in revenue by 2025.

The Conservatives’ 2019 platform also includes a plan to expand rural communities’ access to broadband. This plan will be executed by redefining licence areas for internet providers and allowing greater flexibility for private sector companies, while “focusing government investment on areas that are less commercially attractive.”  In its current iteration, the Conservative platform has no line items for addressing high cell rates or the ongoing role of the CRTC.

With a Conservative government, Canadians can expect to see a new cabinet committee on cyber security and privacy. In addition, Scheer would implement a “Canada Cyber Safe” brand to help consumers clearly identify products that have met certain national security standards. Finally, companies would have to update their agreements to plain language to ensure citizens’ data was being collected with informed consent.

On the clean tech front, the Conservative campaign has lauded the idea of “technology, not tax.” Instead of continuing the current federal carbon tax framework, the party would launch a green tech patent tax credit for businesses and replace heavy emitters’ taxes with requirements to invest in clean tech or related research. Finally, the party has a plan plan to launch the Green Technology and Innovation Fund which would inject up to $1 billion of new venture capital for Canadian green tech companies.

New Democratic Party of Canada

The NDP platform, as defined by Jagmeet Singh, also focuses on taxing Big Tech. After taxing large internet companies’ digital services and advertising, the party expects $2.3 billion in revenue. To help foster homegrown talent and stem the “brain drain” of talented Canadians moving to the U.S. for more lucrative positions, the NDP has also introduced a policy framework for a sector-specific fund that would stimulate Canadian innovation and R&D. This fund would put a focus on low-carbon tech innovation.

The cost of cellular and internet bills has been a key component of the NDP platform in #elxn43. The NDP would enforce a price cap to ensure Canadians don’t pay more than the global average in OECD countries for both cell and internet bills. At a cost of $750 million by 2021 and $500 million in each following year, the NDP would work to provide quality cell and broadband service coast-to-coast. Under this government, telecom companies would be forced to create basic plans, abolish data caps and end surprise bills.

In the world of clean tech, the NDP has proposed creating a “climate bank” to stimulate investment in and growth of the clean tech economy. By 2025, all federal buildings and fleets would convert to renewable energy and electric vehicle tech at a cost of $15 billion.  On data privacy, the NDP’s platform includes provisions to work with international allies and enhance the real-time oversight of security services. 

Green Party of Canada

Elizabeth May’s Green Party platform would regulate social media platforms to “ensure that only actual people, with verifiable identities, are able to publish.” This platform also includes a corporate tax on Big Tech but doesn’t offer specific thresholds.

A new tech-related tax that the policy does outline is unique to the Greens. Under their current platform, the party would implement a “robot tax” that firms would have to pay each time a worker was replaced with a machine. Resulting revenue would be redirected into educational and retraining programs, with small business exemptions.

Regarding more affordable cell and internet expenses, May’s Green Party would mandate more affordable plans across the board. In order to drive down prices – and in doing so, address the “telecom monopoly” – the party plans to open the Canadian market for home grown telecom companies and amend CRTC regulations.

The Green Party also outlines its policies for data privacy and breach protection. Upon being elected, it would work to strengthen digital privacy laws and mandate that data breach reporting be required for political parties, financial institutions, companies and federal government departments. In addition, warrantless access to citizens’ personal communications would be prohibited, mass data collection to support cyber surveillance programs would be banned outright and companies would be mandated to adopt the General Data Privacy Protection Regulation (GDPR) of a citizen’s “right to be forgotten” online.

Being the Green Party, the clean tech policy and provisions to move toward a green economy are robust. To stimulate clean tech manufacturing, emerging tech economies, digital upgrades and other areas, the party announced plans for a Canadian Sustainable Generations Fund, which will make “critical investments” in trades, apprenticeships, education and skills training.

Bloc Quebecois

Under Yves-François Blanchet, the Bloc Quebecois would levy a three per cent tax on Big Tech based on Canadian revenue in following with the French model. Recognizing that Quebec has recently developed a strong high-tech economy, particularly related to gaming, green tech, aerospace and pharma, the party would launch an investment fund to stimulate and promote these key areas.

The party would also seek to establish a tax credit for young graduates moving to the province in addition to existing incentives. Contrary to the Green Party, the Bloc would introduce loan programs for organizations looking to automate their workforce if faced with labour shortages.

Rural Quebec’s federal ridings have had widespread issues in accessing high speed internet and consistent cell service. Blanchet’s government would push for equitable access to broadcast and more affordable cell phone rates across the country.

People’s Party of Canada

The platform of Maxime Bernier’s party involves a great deal of cuts and phase-outs. Contrary to its peers, the PPC would lower the corporate income tax rate from 15 to 10 per cent and has no stated policies for Big Tech tax. In addition, the party would entirely abolish subsidies for green tech and begin to phase out the CRTC to allow for more foreign competition in telecoms.