Government of Canada launches new regional economic development agency for B.C.

overview of Victoria and Esquimalt harbours
Bird's eye view of Greater Victoria. Image -- Shutterstock.

A new economic development agency will serve businesses and communities across B.C.

In a bid to tailor economic recovery and growth to the distinct needs of each region, the Government of Canada will enhance its federal development presence in Western Canada by creating two regional development agencies for British Columbia and the Prairie provinces.

Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan) will be the new federal regional economic development agency for British Columbia. It aims to extend Western Economic Diversification Canada’s (WD) mandate to “work more closely with B.C. businesses, innovators, and communities; promote connections and investments to foster economic growth; and help organizations navigate federal programs and policies,” according to a media release August 5, 2021.

Funding for the agency was outlined in Budget 2021, providing $553.1 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, and $110.6 million ongoing.

PacifiCan will have offices in Victoria, Campbell River, Prince Rupert, Fort St. John, Prince George, Kelowna, Cranbrook and Vancouver, with its headquarters in Surrey.

The new agency will build on existing relationships with clients and partners such as the Western Canada Business Service Network, delivering Budget 2021 funding programs to help businesses scale-up, and support regional innovation.

Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for Pacific Economic Development Canada says “British Columbia’s economy is growing and diversifying more each day, requiring a tailored approach that considers its needs and seizes its opportunities. We are proud to be investing in the economic future of innovators, businesses, and communities across British Columbia with the creation of PacifiCan.”

Emilie de Rosenroll, CEO of South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP), the economic development agency for Greater Victoria says this announcement will greatly benefit the South Island. “[It] recognizes B.C.’s unique economic drivers and challenges. SIPP has been a strong champion of creating a B.C.-based regional development agency, and this is great news for B.C.’s large metropolitan areas, like Greater Victoria, which are striving to be leaders in the global innovation and digital economies. The federal government is a key partner in this endeavour.”

De Rosenroll notes suitable local vehicles for PacifiCan to direct investment could include the Indigenous Prosperity Centre and the Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies (COAST), launched earlier this year to grow the next generation of ocean and marine jobs here in Pacific Canada. SIPP is working with local partners, including First Nations, to incubate these centres as they develop the capacity to operate independently.

“We are thrilled the new agency will be bringing back a local Victoria office presence, which will keep the federal government more in tune with the needs of our local economy,” says South Island Prosperity Partnership Chair Frank Bourree. “Our region benefited from having a WD office here in years past, and this brings that front-line, open-door impact back to a region that is having to deal with some real economic challenges in the years to come. SIPP welcomes the opportunity to work closely with PacifiCan to diversify and strengthen our economy to the benefit of us all.”

Quick facts

Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan) is one of two new regional development agencies being launched. The other is Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan), which will be focused on Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The new agencies will replace Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD), which has been serving western Canadians since August 4, 1987.

Canada’s other regional development agencies include the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Canada Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec (CEDQ), Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), and the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor).

Western Diversification Canada says they protected nearly 41,000 jobs through the COVID-19 pandemic through their support of over 9,400 businesses and organizations with more than $630 million in assistance through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund.

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