Business group presses feds on innovation agenda

Agriculture Manufacturers of Canada hopes the Liberal government will fulfill a election pledge to support innovation in the agriculture sector.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau promised during last year’s federal election campaign to spend $100 million a year for three years on the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), which is 
an innovation assistance program for small and medium-sized business.

AMC president Leah Olson said IRAP, which is funded through the National Research Council, is essential if the association’s members are to continue developing new and innovative products.

“It’s an important program for our membership,” Olson said.

“It can be the difference between launching a new product within the next year versus launching a new product in five years.”

IRAP is one of the few government programs that AMC members broadly use, she said.

“We are very entrepreneurial. We invest our own dollars into the development of new technologies, and we don’t rely heavily on government funding or tax rebates,” Olson said.

“When they are investing into innovation, these dollars can help them immediately, they can hire an engineer to do some prototyping and testing.”

The financial outlook has changed since last fall’s election, which has raised concerns about the government’s ability to follow through on election promises.

Finance minister Bill Morneau recently said the federal deficit will balloon to $18.4 billion in 2016-17 and $15.5 billion in 2017-18, and this projection does not include new spending.

Three months ago the deficit was projected to be $3.9-billion in 2016-17 and $2.4 in 2017-18.

Olson said fulfilling this commitment would send a clear message that the government is serious about its innovation agenda.

Contact robin.booker@producer.com

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