North CEO Stephen Lake (adjusting glasses), listens to Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains Friday. (Communitech photo: Sara Jalali)

Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, indicated the Global Skills Strategy program – a fast-track visa process for foreign talent that has been used to great effect by the local tech community – will get a green light to continue beyond its current two-year mandate when it comes up for renewal this June.

“All of the above,” said Bains, asked Friday if the program would be extended and broadened. “I think it has a lot of potential.”

Speaking in a media scrum after a 30-minute “fireside chat” at Communitech, Bains said the two-year Global Skills pilot program, which was rolled out in June of 2017 and allows a company to acquire a visa for an international job candidate within two weeks, has “been a very successful program and we want to continue to expand it and grow it in the coming weeks and months.

“I’m confident this program will continue to thrive in the coming months.”

That’s music to the ears of North CEO and co-founder Stephen Lake, who was in the audience Friday. North (previously known as Thalmic Labs) has used the Global Skills Program to make 26 hires. The company said Friday that 18 of those hires are now in Canada and eight others are in the immigration pipeline.

“Global Skills has been a huge benefit to us,” said Lake, who added that prior to the program it would take “eight or 10 months in some cases to get visas.

“There were cases where we were losing people in the pipeline,” Lake said.

“Obviously we hope they continue to invest in it. It’s been great for companies in Canada. We’re trying to attract the best and the brightest people in the world to help companies grow.”

Bains was in Waterloo Region to discuss details of the federal government’s Fall Economic Statement 2018, which was unveiled on Wednesday. The statement was broadly focused on measures related to business and the economy in general – “The economy is doing well,” Bains said Friday. “Our GDP growth is the best among the G7. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, at 5.8 per cent” – but there were a number of initiatives in the update certain to have an impact on tech companies. Among them:

  • $800 million in additional cash for the $1.26-billion Strategic Innovation Fund; money from the fund is already being directed toward Canadian tech companies, including North, which recently received $24 million under the program.
  • $11.4 million over five years to establish the Centre for Regulatory Innovation.
  • Changes to tax rules that will allow businesses to write off the cost of capital investments and manufacturing equipment, as well computers, software and networking equipment.
  • $50 million in top-up funding for clean technology firms through the existing $400 million Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI); Kitchener-based venture capital firm Garage Capital has already received funds from the program.
  • Expanding the Trade Commissioner Service’s Canadian Technology Accelerator program to global tech centres like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Delhi. Previously the program focused on U.S. cities.

Asked which of the measures above would be of most benefit to the local ecosystem, Bains replied: “I think it’s a combination. There’s no silver bullet. All these combined create opportunities to grow and create more jobs.”

And then the minister rounded back to talk about the Global Skills program, specifically in regard to local companies. Other local firms that have used the program include Applyboard, Clearpath Robotics, Skywatch, Plum, Shopify, Mappedin, Chalk and TextNow.

“[The Global Skills program] creates Canadian jobs,” said Bains. “For every one visa we have issued, it has created 10 new Canadian jobs, as well. What distinguishes Kitchener-Waterloo and this region and Canada is that we’re really open to talent. We have incredible Canadian talent, but we also have access to global talent.”

Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto.  This article originally appeared on their site.