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In May, the Canadian RegTech Association’s annual summit welcomed Chris Albinson, CEO of Communitech as this year’s featured keynote speaker. Chris came armed with dozens of economic metrics and delivered an emotionally charged message that spoke to the critical intersection of Canada's technological advancements, particularly in artificial intelligence (AI), and the necessity for strategic regulatory and economic actions. His insights revealed Canada's competitive edge in AI, driven by its rich talent pool and robust innovation ecosystem, yet he emphasized the pressing need to align regulatory frameworks and capital investments to fully harness these opportunities.

Chris launched into his keynote by bringing the audience’s attention to 1976 Canadian Olympic speed skater and silver medalist Cathy Priestner who 28 years after competing for our country was instrumental in creating the initial Own the Podium framework in 2004. Cathy said that if Canada was going to be successful at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver-Whistler we would need to concentrate resources where we had the greatest probability of success. In 6 short years we went from never winning a winter Olympic gold medal to winning 14, more than any host nation before or since.

Waterloo Ontario based Communitech, founded 26 years ago, has been pivotal in nurturing Canadian startups. Drawing parallels to Canada's success in the "Own the Podium'' Olympic program, Chris underscored the potential for similar achievements in AI. Canada’s long standing engagement with AI, spanning four decades, has cultivated globally competitive founders and innovations. Notable successes include Shopify, started by Toby Lutke, a German immigrant mentored by Albinson, and other billion-dollar companies led by immigrants from various countries.

For the next 20 minutes Chris’s keynote delivered a rapid succession statistics and comparative metrics between Canada, the US and Europe, which focused on the five bolded key themes that follow;

Talent and Innovation Hub

Canada's Waterloo-Toronto corridor has become North America's second-largest innovation hub, surpassing New York. The region boasts more tech workers than California, with projections indicating it will outpace the Bay Area within three years. This growth is attributed to Canada’s welcoming immigration policies, attracting top talent globally, including key founders who are immigrants.

Capital and Efficiency

Canadian startups are outperforming their US counterparts in growth and efficiency. Canadian venture capital investments are now yielding returns equal to or better than those in the US. Despite this, 74% of investment capital for Canadian startups is sourced from outside Canada, primarily the US, due to underinvestment by Canadian pensions in domestic innovation.

Regulatory Challenges

The rapid advancement of AI technology, described as 100 times faster and more impactful than previous technological waves, poses significant regulatory challenges. Albinson compared regulatory environments globally, highlighting that Canada’s middling position could hinder innovation. He stresses the need for regulatory frameworks that balance safety and economic growth while facilitating rapid adoption of new technologies.

Strategic Urgency

Albinson warned that Canada has limited time to capitalize on its AI advancements. The US’s restrictive immigration policies temporarily give Canada an advantage in attracting global talent, but this could change swiftly. Furthermore, Canadian companies are slower to adopt new technologies, with a 50% lower adoption rate compared to their US counterparts, posing a significant barrier to staying competitive.

Capital and Commercialization

For Canadian innovation to thrive, it needs robust domestic capital and strong commercialization opportunities. He called for Canadian financial institutions to invest more in local startups and innovators. He cited the example of Martin Basiri, founder of ApplyBoard, who secured nearly a billion dollars in financing from New York after Canadian banks failed to support his vision.


Chris concluded with a call to action, urging stakeholders to accelerate efforts in supporting Canadian innovators. He highlights the need for coordinated regulatory and investment strategies to ensure that Canada not only retains its competitive edge in AI but also capitalizes on the economic and social benefits this technology promises. Drawing on Canada’s historical capacity for rapid and significant achievements, he stressed the urgency of acting now to secure a prosperous future for Canadian innovation.

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