Canada needs more Communitech, the federal Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, Mélanie Joly, said during a brief visit to Waterloo Region Monday morning.

“I would say that, obviously, Communitech is the example [right] across the country,” Joly, unprompted, told Communitech News in an interview, shortly after an hour-long roundtable meeting with local business and civic leaders.

“And what I'm hearing in [other regions] is, ‘How can we have the same type of model as Communitech?'"

Joly, the former heritage minister from 2015 to 2018 and then the minister of tourism, official languages and the Francophonie, was appointed to her new portfolio just shy of two weeks ago in the wake of the October federal election, which returned the Liberals to power, albeit with a minority.

The main task of Joly’s new portfolio, she said, is to oversee Canada's six regional economic development agencies, including FedDev, which encompasses southern Ontario and is tasked with delivering the government’s Innovation and Skills Plan.


Mélanie Joly, flanked by Communitech CEO Iain Klugman and Waterloo MP and
of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger, at a roundtable
discussion with
business leaders Monday.
(Photo: Scott McQuarrie, for Communitech)

To that end, Joly said that her immediate priorities include reducing the economic gap between small and large centres and ensuring that people living in smaller centres have access to opportunity.

And she reiterated her commitment to innovation and technological development and would continue to work closely with Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“So we've invested massively in innovation in our first four years,” Joly said, adding that the government’s intention is to now “decentralize a bit of the decision-making and make it even more relevant to people on the ground.”

Asked what was on the wish list of the local leaders she met with on Monday, Joly said talent and skills carried the headline.

“Well what I've heard is people trust FedDev. And [then] quickly they went into the bigger problems, the bigger issues – definitely skills and training is something that many entrepreneurs have been talking about.

“The other thing is, how can there be a bigger role for FedDev to play as a convener, a role as a convener of all federal departments? So, how can there be a one-stop shop?”

“The idea is to lead a team of people that will understand better what business leaders and entrepreneurs are thinking and how we can support them to actually create more jobs, or actually not only create more jobs but actually offer better jobs.”