• Jun 26, 2023
  • Insights

Canada’s tech sector: bridging the gap between global leadership and local perception

Photo: christina-wocintechchat.com

As Toronto opens its doors this week to the international tech community for this year’s Collision Conference, Canada takes centre stage in a global conversation on the future of technology. Big societal topics and trends, including artificial intelligence (AI), sustainability, and life sciences are being pushed to the forefront by renowned speakers like Geoffrey Hinton, known as the “Godfather of AI.” The global event, backed by an estimated annual investment of CAD $6.5 million from the City of Toronto, draws attendees from around the world and showcases the potential of Canada’s tech economy, an industry set to drive economic growth and bolster Canada’s reputation on the world stage. According to Destination Toronto and reported by BetaKit, the event is anticipated to attract 40,000 attendees, generating CAD $49 million in direct spending and contributing to a CAD $77 million economic impact. 

However, in contrast to this global attention and promising future, a recent survey by Earnscliffe Strategies reveals a surprising need for more understanding among Canadians about their domestic tech sector. 

Despite hosting a conference of this scale and streams of mainstream media coverage spotlighting Canadian tech, including daily news tracking the evolution of tech giants like Neo Financial and Shopify, talent pipelines, venture funding, government policy and more, there’s a stark contrast between the public’s comprehension of the sector and its potential. Earnscliffe’s study revealed that 52% of Canadians have little to no knowledge of what is meant by the term “tech sector.”  

The gap is particularly noteworthy as Canadian tech holds the promise of diversifying Canada’s economy, fostering economic prosperity through innovation and knowledge economy jobs, and leveraging our strong AI, biotech, life sciences, SaaS, cleantech and fintech foundations to be global changemakers. 

The study raises an important question: How will this knowledge gap impact the future of our tech sector, its reputation and growth potential? 

Earnscliffe’s research further reveals that fewer than one-third (31%) of Canadians perceive the tech sector as offering more solutions than problems. More Canadians (37%) feel that the tech sector offers an equal mix of solutions and problems while another 17% feel that the problems it presents outnumber the solutions it provides. A perception likely influenced by recent mass layoffs, market fluctuations, few mergers and acquisitions, cryptocurrency volatility, and uncertainty about AI’s impact on jobs and society. Or as a result of Canada’s more “emotionally”-leaning reporting style that some say feeds into Canadians’ “pride in schadenfreude.”

Considering the mixed feelings among the public about the country’s tech sector, the study also presents concerns over foreign acquisitions of Canadian tech companies. In fact, only 18% of Canadians feel that an acquisition is a “win” for Canada while just over half (53%) see it as a loss.  

But despite these findings, Canadians still have hope and desire for growth within Canadian tech. 

Roughly three out of four (72%) Canadians want to see the country’s tech sector grow over the next five to ten years, including 40% who want to see it grow a lot. This outlook indicates that by improving public communication and engagement, there’s potential to amplify Canadians’ support for the industry. This also includes how technology can be used as an agent for making the world a better place. 

Megan Shay, Earnscliffe Principal and Communications Practice Lead notes, “The Collision Conference brings Canada to the global forefront. And our study demonstrates the need to foster a deeper understanding of the tech sector among Canadians.” Switchboard Founder Kathleen Reid who works with tech companies at all stages of growth, emphasizes that “Canada’s tech scene has some work to do, to champion these homegrown success stories and to come together to tell them. It’s also clear that as tech is in the headlines more frequently the sector needs to have open dialogue with the public to build awareness, understanding and trust.” 

Across Canada, regional tech clusters, Ministries, associations and institutions like the BC Tech Association, MaRS and Communitech provide a promising avenue and opportunity for collective efforts to bridge the public knowledge gap about the tech sector and create a baseline understanding of it. The challenge now is how we work together to transform public indifference and misconceptions about the tech sector into robust support and understanding. 

By fostering a unified approach and deepening the public’s understanding of the tech sector’s potential to create a better Canada, we can bring to life a strategy that inspires confidence, builds a sense of community and makes this promising sector more accessible. 

As the industry levels up, we can look at this knowledge gap as a communications and media opportunity.  

There’s a need for a unified, jargon-free, easy-to-digest narrative around Canada’s tech sector. Taking a cue from our meek Olympic spirit, it’s time for Canada to shed its modesty and celebrate the innovation within its borders.  

As Canadian tech leaders gear up for a week of networking and learning, the narrative of Canada’s tech scene is set to evolve. Amid global attention, the sector’s future hinges not only on innovation and networking within its ranks, but also on cultivating a shared vision that propels the Canadian tech sector forward.


  • This survey was sponsored, designed and analyzed by Earnscliffe Strategies and the field work was conducted by Leger. The survey was conducted with 1,532 individuals from across Canada between June 8-11, 2023. The data was weighted to be reflective of the Canadian population by age, region, sex, education and children under 18 in the household based on Census data. Since this survey was conducted using an online panel, no margin of error may be calculated.
  • Earnscliffe follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements.

View the survey questionnaire | Download the full data tables