Ontario premier tours BlackBerry QNX Kanata facility

Wynne
Photo via BlackBerry QNX / Twitter

Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne travelled to Kanata on Friday, meeting with business representatives and other politicians while using one of the city’s most high-profile tech firms as a backdrop to tout her government’s economic policies.

The premier toured BlackBerry QNX’s facility, which is at the forefront of developing autonomous vehicle technology.

Addressing reporters after the tour, Wynne argued she was “engaged” with high-tech firms in the province and that government can be a catalyst for private-sector innovation.

“There’s a reason that these companies are here. They are here because the conditions are right,” she said, mentioning skills development, infrastructure and the $80 million in the Liberal’s most recent budget for autonomous vehicle research.

Local economic development officials, meanwhile, used the premier’s visit to draw attention to the city’s talent pool and high-tech ecosystem.

“Ottawa is the (autonomous vehicle) capital of our province and our country,” said Jenna Sudds, the executive director of the Kanata North BIA, before introducing the premier. Sudds has been pushing to make Ottawa's west end a hub for autonomous vehicle technology for more than a year.

Those efforts have gained significant momentum in recent months. In December 2016, BlackBerry said it was pouring $100 million into its QNX division to create an autonomous vehicles innovation centre and add 650 jobs in the region.

More recently, automotive manufacturer Ford said earlier this year that it would hire hundreds of BlackBerry employees and spend $337.9 million to create an Ottawa Research and Engineering Centre focused on developing autonomous driving technology.

BlackBerry QNX’s Kanata facility is becoming an increasingly popular backdrop for political photo-ops. In May, Navdeep Bains – the federal minister of science, innovation and economic development – rolled into the company’s high-tech garage to announce details about his government’s “supercluster” support program.