The federal government released its budget on Wednesday. While there was little that directly provided for co-operative businesses, there was plenty of opportunity to build on the direction set by the government – whatever your feelings about the budget itself.

Here are three important things to take-away from Budget 2017:

Think Big – Be Innovative

Nearly every page of the budget mentions innovation or a related term (e.g. incubator, enhancement, accelerate). This speaks to Canada’s competition in global markets and ability to efficiently produce goods that the world wants to consume. Co-operatives engaged in exporting products need to be aware of new and creative ways of doing things to maintain an edge in the marketplace.

Government support for opportunities like alternative energy sources, harnessing new technology, and skills training are ideal for co-operatives in rural and Indigenous communities that need to overcome inefficiencies related to geography. Acquiring the skills to better integrate technology to delivery services and produce high-quality products is becoming essential.

Be Inclusive – Embrace Diversity

Western Canada’s population is becoming more diverse, enriched with new ideas and experiences. Canada’s co-operative sector can offer diverse populations a forum to share ideas in a meaningful way that promotes inclusion and facilitates innovation.

The barriers that limited the participation of Canada’s Indigenous people, women, and youth in the economy are being removed. The government of Canada is introducing special programming that encourages these groups to become active in businesses and shape the economy. Provisions for new Canadians allow highly skilled new comers an opportunity to advance innovation. Co-operatives that promote the removal of barriers to participation and embrace diversity will be well-positioned to be leaders in business, equality, and inclusion.

Embrace Technology – Join the Conversation

It’s no surprise that Canada’s innovation agenda is being carried out using technology. The Budget makes special provisions for investment in technology in clean tech, agri-foods, and teaching kids to code. Technology is becoming one of the driving forces for Canadian businesses and is instrumental in ensuring businesses and products remain relevant.

Co-operatives First recently participated in a discussion with Dr. Thomas Keenan (author of Technocreep) who provided insight into the fascinating advancements in market-based technologies. From smart shelves that issue coupons to likely customers to online preference-based ads, technology is re-shaping the marketplace and how we operate in it. Co-operatives that want to remain competitive need to join this conversation (literally in the case of social media) and embrace technological advancements and the efficiencies and connectivity that follows.