The federal government is taking a new approach for economies in Western Canada as businesses restart and manage life after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
The change involves splitting up the Western Economic Diversification Canada team to create two agencies, with one for B.C. and the other for the three Prairie provinces.
“We wanted to have a much more targeted approach for both regions. We wanted to make sure that these regions would be at par with other regions in the country,” Canada’s Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly said.
The newly-formed Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan) will have offices in 11 cities, including three in Saskatchewan.
“We’ll be opening an office in Regina, but also more than that. We’ll be also present in Prince Albert,” Joly said.
It’s positive news for regional business groups who are eagerly anticipating what this could mean to stabilize regional economies, according to Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA).
“Whether it’s the technology sector, tourism, manufacturing, mining … that funding is really going to help those sectors recover and that’s going to help the overall economy in Saskatoon recover post-COVID,” SREDA president and CEO Alex Fallon said.
The minister said there’s around $150 million set aside in core funding for PrairiesCan. Officials said funding can be used in different capacities like helping start-up incubators, monetizing university research and even offering interest-free loans to entrepreneurs when they need capital.
“Either through other types of funding coming from banks … we’re, a lot of the time, the first one to support them and to give them their credibility when going to see other lenders,” Joly said.
Joly added spreading out offices across the region will also help businesses who are looking to apply for federal grants or working with different government agencies.