Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux waits to appear before the Commons Finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberals’ ‘supercluster’ program falling short of promised jobs, economic growth

The Liberals said Tuesday that the program had created more than 6,100 jobs

The parliamentary spending watchdog says a government program to fuse public and private money to promote innovation appears to be well shy of its promise.

The Liberals created their “supercluster” program in 2018, putting in $918 million over five years to bring business, academic institutions and other non-profits together for research projects that could have economic benefits.

The private and academic partners in the endeavour were expected to spend over $1 billion over the same time.

The federal spending was supposed to create 50,000 jobs and boost the country’s gross domestic product by $50 billion over a decade, through advances in everything from supply-chain management to fisheries.

But the parliamentary budget officer said Tuesday that spending has lagged and it’s not clear how many jobs have actually been created.

Yves Giroux’s latest report said it is unlikely that the government will meet its economic growth expectations for the programs.

Giroux also said the department overseeing the program couldn’t provide specific ways to measure the boosts in innovation that the spending is to provide, echoing a concern from the Council of Canadian Innovators about clear metrics and a strategy to commercialize any developments.

“This program has been ineffective in building national prosperity for all Canadians and has not lived up to the stated expectations of government or the drivers of Canada’s innovation economy, therefore requiring an important pivot in the time of COVID,” the council’s executive director, Benjamin Bergen, said in a statement.

The report is based on information collected before the COVID-19 pandemic struck Canada, and Giroux suggests parliamentarians may want to get more details about how the pandemic has affected the supercluster program.

One effect the government does note is that three of the clusters shifted their focus to respond to the pandemic, trying to come up with solutions and retool to provide health-care supplies, equipment and technology.

What Giroux found in his report was that the government could only account for 2,594 jobs expected to be created from 24 of the 45 projects announced, roughly 14 jobs for every $1 million of combined federal and private funding.

Absent other information, Giroux’s team estimated the same job creation rate for the remaining programs, meaning there could be almost 4,000 jobs created as a result.

Whether they are full-time, part-time, permanent or temporary, Giroux couldn’t say. He did say there could be a positive impact on the labour market, noting that one of the projects seeks to train workers.

The Liberals said Tuesday that the program had created more than 6,100 jobs since the first projects launched about a year and a half ago, and argued that internal projections put the government on track to hit its 50,000-jobs promise.

“We are seeing the five superclusters live up to their promise in terms of leveraging industry contributions, and supporting collaborative projects with small and medium-sized enterprises which are having a national impact,” Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said in a statement.

Giroux’s office questioned whether the impact on the economy would be as large as the Liberals said.

Similar initiatives studied elsewhere in the world suggest that funding of research and development can have an economic impact between three and eight times overall spending, well below the 25-fold effect from the $2 billion in federal and private funding through the program.

Giroux’s report said it seems “highly unlikely” the government will hit its GDP target.

Conservative industry critic James Cumming said the findings from the spending watchdog show the program is more focused on buzz words than supporting workers.

“The PBO report released today makes it clear that the Liberals’ supercluster program will not grow the economy or increase innovation in Canada,” he said in a statement. “The Trudeau Liberals have actually spent more money on administrative costs than on job-creating projects. That is ridiculous.”

Giroux’s report noted that the government had only funded programs to the tune of $30 million by March, when it had planned to provide $104 million in funding. Of the amount spent, more than half — $18 million — was for “operational and administrative” costs.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Liberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A monument was unveiled during a ceremony in Tofino last week honouring Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka. The monument will be placed on Hwy. 4 near Kennedy Lake. (Photo courtesy of Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC)
Somber ceremony held in Tofino to mark 10th anniversary of fatal ambulance crash

Beloved paramedics Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka died in a tragic ambulance crash on Hwy. 4.

The candidates for the Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding in the 2020 provincial election. Clockwise from top left: Rob Clarke, Graham Hughes, Evan Jolicoeur, Helen Poon and Josie Osborne. Osborne was declared the winner on Saturday night. (Photos submitted )
POLL QUESTION: Are you happy with the results of B.C.’s provincial election?

Josie Osborne of the BC NDP and Tofino’s now-former mayor won the Mid Island - Pacific Rim seat.

Ucluelet RCMP detachment. (Westerly file photo)
Driver facing charges after crashing into pedestrian at Ucluelet crosswalk

“It’s a reminder to slow down and pay attention,” said Sgt. Steve Mancini.

Josie Osborne and her campaign team watch the results roll in during B.C.’s provincial election on Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of Josie Osborne)
Tofino expected to wait until New Year to elect new mayor after Josie Osborne wins provincial seat

Josie Osborne is the West Coast’s new MLA and that means Tofino needs a new mayor.

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Commissioner Austin Cullen looks at documents before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
RCMP lacked dedicated team to investigate illegal activities at casino, inquiry hears

Hearings for the inquiry are set to continue into next week and the inquiry is expected to wrap up next year

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Court approves money for B.C. foster children alleging harm from Kelowna social worker

The maximum combined total award for basic payments and elevated damages for an individual is $250,000

Most Read