Ministerial transition briefing materials, October 2021

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Welcome letter to the minister

Dear Minister Vandal,

Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Northern Affairs, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan), and Minister responsible for Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

We are interested to learn what you heard on the campaign trail and what are your immediate priorities.  In addition, we look forward to your direction on the Budget 2021 pandemic recovery programs as well as the rollout of PrairiesCan as it evolves from Western Economic Diversification Canada.

In August, two dedicated RDAs for the Prairies and British Columbia were established in recognition of the different economic realities of each region. They are expected to be more present in more communities.  The ultimate goal – our enduring mandate – is a sustainable and inclusive economy, with jobs that people can rely on.

Prior to Budget 2021, our team was working well past exhaustion to deliver a historic level of support to assist small and medium-sized businesses survive COVID.  A key factor has been keeping supply chains working and employment relationships intact.

Budget 2021 created a large number of new time-limited programs for PrairiesCan to deliver.  An immediate challenge will be how we balance due diligence with velocity in finalizing good projects that can be delivered this year.  There is also a need to look at the policy for some of the Budget 2021 programs given the evolution of COVID since that time, especially wave 4.  A particular concern is the degree of business debt. 

Attached is written material that I hope will help you get underway well.  However, everyone’s learning style is different and interests vary.  So, please do let me know how we can best support you specifically and what is of particular interest to you. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 780-495-5772.  Our Director-General of Ministerial Affairs, Andrew Fraser, is also always happy to help with practical matters.  He is at 613-325-9159.

On behalf of your PrairiesCan Assistant Deputy Ministers, and the more than 375 public servants located across the Prairies and in Ottawa who stand ready to help you succeed:  welcome!


Original signed by:

Dylan Jones
Interim President, Prairies Economic Development Canada

Ministerial key messages

  1. I am pleased to become the Minister Responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada.
  2. I know the pandemic has taken a terrible toll on communities, businesses, and families. After more than a year and a half spent fighting the effects of COVID, we all want to move forward.
  3. Economic recovery is our government’s immediate focus. Too many businesses are suffering, and many are carrying too much debt. Helping them to seize recovery opportunities is my business.
  4. PrairiesCan is the dedicated federal economic development partner to help businesses, innovators and communities move forward. PrairiesCan is about building future jobs people can rely on.
  5. PrairiesCan is growing across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba because of the input provided by leaders, partners and clients over the past year. They told us they wanted a more active partner with greater on-the-ground presence. We listened.
  6. In the months ahead we will start up new service centres across the Prairie Provinces.
    1. That means an expanded office in Calgary and seven new locations:
      1. In Alberta: Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, and Fort McMurray.
      2. In Saskatchewan: Regina and Prince Albert.
      3. In Manitoba: Brandon and Thompson.
  1. This is about being more inclusive, better-connecting communities and sectors of the economy to enhanced federal service, generating high-impact investment opportunities, and doing more advocacy to represent Prairie perspectives and interests in Ottawa.
  2. The results will bring more value for the Prairies economy and more success for our people. We have much to do together. It’s time to get to work. 

Transition Deck: PacifiCan and PrairiesCan—Building on WD’s Success

Public Expectations

2021-2022 Agency Budgets

Mandate and Roles

Mandate and Roles
Text version: Mandate and Roles

A diagram showing the four roles of the two agencies. These are, in clockwise order from top left:

  • Invest: Create jobs and growth via strategic investments and targeted initiatives
  • Advise: Inform economic decision-making and advocate for BC and Prairie interests
  • Convene: Connect economic actors to support collaboration and growth
  • Pathfind: Help people navigate federal economic programs and services

At the centre are the agencies’ goals to support competitive and innovative businesses and thriving communities.

Meeting Public Expectations: Presence in More Places

New service locations were announced in August 2021

Service locations
Text version: Service Locations

A map of Western Canada showing existing and planned new service locations for PrairiesCan and PacifiCan.

PacifiCan’s existing location is in Vancouver, with a future headquarters planned for Surrey. New service locations are planned for Victoria, Campbell River, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Prince George, Prince Rupert, and Fort St. John.

PrairiesCan’s existing headquarters is in Edmonton, with existing locations in Calgary, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg. New service locations are planned for Lethbridge, Grand Prairie, Fort McMurray, Regina, Prince Albert, Brandon, and Thompson.

The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF)

Keeping People Employed

  • RDAs quickly delivered RRRF with the intention to help every business that needed it. They transformed program design to deliver support at an unprecedented pace. These efforts helped keep Canadians employed during a volatile time.
  • Demand for RRRF in Western Canada ($1.78B) was higher than in all other regions combined ($1.76B).
  • With a focus on liquidity, the RRRF was a last resort measure that helped SMEs that were hardest hit by the pandemic and were unable to access or had exhausted other federal government relief measures.
  • The success of RRRF raised public expectations of RDAs. PacifiCan and PrairiesCan have the opportunity to exceed these expectations as the western Canadian economy continues to recover.
  • $715M in approved funding
  • 10,024 businesses and organizations assisted
  • 49,983 jobs directly supported

(WD totals, as of September 30, 2021)

How We Help: Core Programs

The main ways the agencies fund businesses, not-for-profits, and communities:

Regional Growth Through Innovation

Regional Innovation Ecosystem: funding for not-for-profit organizations to support innovative entrepreneurship
Business Scale-up and Productivity: support for innovative, high-growth businesses to scale-up

Community Development and Diversification

Support for economic growth and diversification of communities

Economic Development Initiative

Support for projects in official language minority communities.

Western Canada Business Service Network

Helping entrepreneurs start or expand small businesses, including rural areas and underrepresented groups.

How We Help: Time-Limited Program Delivery

The agencies also deliver one-time programming to respond to urgent regional and community needs, including those arising as a result of the pandemic.
Current initiatives include:

What Clients Say

“… the game-changer was the Women Entrepreneurship Fund from WD which helped us to excel. It helped us to opportunities which we never thought of. Today we are innovating things, we are creating things, we are going towards AI, we are providing solutions which can be so beneficial for non-profits.”
Sumegha Gupta, NSD Tech Inc. (Winnipeg, MB)
“Thanks to the increased funding from PacifiCan, we were able to provide proactive support to women-owned businesses who were impacted by COVID-19 in all areas of BC.”
Jill Earthy, Women’s Enterprise Centre BC (Kelowna, BC)
“The support from WD has meant we've not just retained our team but we've kept on hiring right through the pandemic.”
Cory Janssen, AltaML (Edmonton, AB)
“The support from WD Canada has helped us immensely with the growth of the company, and it has allowed us to actually hire more employees.”
– Andréanne Mulaire Dandeneau, Anne Mulaire Designs (Winnipeg, MB)

The View from BC

Two Economies

Pandemic Impacts

Disasters Deepen Impact

Uneven Recovery

The View from BC: Key sectors and trends

Clean Resources

Mining, forestry, and natural gas provide critical goods and exports and are major employers in rural and Indigenous communities. To reduce emissions and grow, industries need to increase productivity, adopt clean technologies/ processes and reskill workers. Opportunities exist to leverage BC strengths in hydrogen and carbon capture utilization and storage.

Indigenous Economy

BC is home to 16% of Indigenous people in Canada and 47% of Indigenous businesses. The evolving context of rights and jurisdiction is changing economies. In some areas First Nations are leveraging land to become major economic players: a partnership in Metro Vancouver holds over $1 billion in property and Osoyoos Indian Band is one of the largest employers in Southern Okanagan. In rural areas, continued resource development relies on First Nations participation.

Ocean Industries

In 2018, direct activities of the ocean sector in represented about 5.1% of provincial GDP. Opportunities to grow this contribution exist in marine renewable energy, ocean-related innovation and technologies; and the ship and boat building and repair sector.

Real Estate and Housing

Real estate and rental leasing was 20% of BC GDP in 2020, highest of all provinces. Housing affordability and security are major concerns, particularly in urban areas.

Emerging Innovative Sectors

BC has strengths in digital and clean technology, life sciences, agri-tech, quantum, and artificial intelligence. Opportunities exist to support growth in these sectors, but many face challenges scaling in BC while attracting capital, customers, and skilled workers.

Canada’s Gateway to the Pacific

The Port of Vancouver handles $1 of every $3 of Canada’s trade in goods outside of North America. In the north, the Port of Prince Rupert is growing, handling 71% more cargo in 2020 than in 2016. Continued growth requires reducing infrastructure bottlenecks, applying technology and adding more value to goods moved through BC ports.

The View from the Prairies

Dual Economic Crises

Signs of Recovery

Labour Market Challenges

The View from the Prairies: Key sectors and trends

Natural Resources

Resource industries have been impacted by the pandemic, price volatility, and pressures to transition the global economy away from carbon-based energy. Opportunities exist to apply industry expertise to new and emerging clean energy sectors: hydrogen, bio refining, petrochemicals.


Severe drought conditions on the Prairies this summer resulted in a dire situation for agricultural producers, the economic impacts of which are still not fully known.

Pandemic Impacts

Pandemic impacts coupled with weak potash, uranium, oil, and natural gas prices, led to considerable slowing of the Prairie economy. Investment in the Prairie provinces has declined sharply and has not recovered. Current capital expenditures are at their lowest point since 2009.

Workforce Development

The Prairies are home to a young, skilled workforce, that could be bolstered with increased participation among Indigenous peoples, women, and youth.*

Value-Added Agriculture

Home to over 80% of Canada’s farmland. Access to adequate water and infrastructure to support irrigation farming, prairie farmers and agri-food producers would enhance plant protein and food production.

Emerging Sectors

There are developing capacities in digital technology, advanced manufacturing, and life sciences to build resilience and diversity.

*Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the population of the Prairies has at least one post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree, comparable to the Canadian average (Statistics Canada). There are significant potential economic gains (GDP) in closing participation gaps for women and Indigenous peoples (McKinsey, National Aboriginal Economic Development Board).

Immediate Challenges

Standing Up New Service Locations

Slow Uptake of Pandemic Support Programming

Speed of Execution

Performance Audit

Key Outreach Opportunities

The Liberal Party Platform: Forward. For Everyone.

PrairiesCan and PacifiCan are positioned to help to deliver commitments outlined in the Liberal Party of Canada electoral platform and to support other inclusive policy and governance initiatives.

Relevant Platform Commitments

  • Establishing a $2B Futures Fund for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Continuing to strengthen RDAs, so rural and small communities have the support they need right where they are.
  • Creating a strategy to support entrepreneurs in official language minority communities to ensure their vitality through RDAs.
  • Restoring more than 1 million jobs and bringing all businesses along to recovery (support for tourism, arts and culture).
  • Helping small businesses grow (digital adoption) and building our advantage in cutting-edge innovation (National Quantum Strategy).
  • Helping Indigenous businesses grow.
Forward. For Everyone.
  • Finishing the Fight Against COVID-19
  • A Home. For Everyone.
  • Better Healthcare. For Everyone.
  • A More Resilient Economy
  • A Greener, Cleaner Future
  • Reconciliation

Platform Commitment Dashboard

Platform Commitment Dashboard
Platform Commitment Status Potential roles for PacifiCan and PrairiesCan
$2 billion Futures Fund for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador New Early engagement with ESDC on design/delivery; share lessons learned from existing Just Transition Coal program delivered by RDAs.
Continue to Strengthen RDAs New Immediate term: Standing up new agencies and enhanced points of service; delivering pandemic recovery funding (Budget 21) Downstream possibilities: Community Economic Development, Building Back Better programming.
Create 1 Million Jobs Continuing work Help reach target through existing and recovery programming.
Blue Economy Strategy Continuing work Work with DFO on Regional Ocean Industries Growth Fund.
Quantum Strategy & Digital Adoption Continuing work Ensure alignment with regional ecosystem partners; continue to work with ISED on Quantum Strategy roll-out.
Indigenous Businesses Continuing work Focus on better leveraging existing programs for Indigenous businesses; build relationships/capacity in the longer term.

Platform Commitments - Advice

For More Information…

We would be pleased to provide subsequent briefings on the agencies, our programs and services, hot issues, or any other topics of interest.

PacifiCan Contacts

President – Dylan Jones | 780-495-5772 (office)

Departmental Concierge – Sharan Evani, Manager, Corporate Secretariat | 236-335-4091

Vice-President, Programs and Partnerships – Naina Sloan | 604-417-2964

PrairiesCan Contacts

Interim President – Dylan Jones | 780-495-5772 (office)

Departmental Concierge – Andrew Fraser, Director General, Corporate and Ministerial Affairs | 613-325-9159

A/Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and Strategic Direction –Justin Riemer | 780-495-4168

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