Canada’s “inclusive” innovation and skills plan in the face of the employment threat of automation
This paper addresses the following question: does Canada’s ‘inclusive’ Innovation and Skills Plan outlined in the 2017 Budget also constitute an ‘automation plan’? To this end, this paper has engaged in a benchmarking of the Trudeau Government’s Innovation and Skills Plan as outlined in the 2017 Budget against the three pillars of an ‘automation plan’, as collated from the global literature on automation. At the outset, David Ticoll’s labour obsolescence analysis is deemed the most appropriate methodology to guide policymakers’ assessments the threat of automation. The three pillars of an ‘automation plan’ include initiatives aimed at creating new jobs via innovation policy, supporting skills modernization via training and education policies, and supporting the displaced via transforming the social safety net. The first pillar is only partially fulfilled, as measuring the true extent of the threat of automation through labour obsolescence analysis is missing from the 2017 Budget’s considerable focus on creating new jobs via innovation policy. The second pillar is also only partially fulfilled, as the Budget’s prioritization of skills modernization did not include efforts to bridge the private-public sector data gap on the diffusion/impact of automation technology. The third pillar – policies aimed at supporting the displaced via transforming the social safety net – was the least fulfilled in the Budget, as transformative initiatives such as universal basic income were largely ignored. This exercise yields the conclusion that Canada’s ‘inclusive’ Innovation and Skills Plan as outlined by Budget 2017 presents a policy package more in line with an ‘Innovation and Skills Plan’ aimed at capitalizing on the upside of innovation, while only partially constituting an ‘automation plan’ designed to manage the disruption of automation.