Trudeau unveils US$1.8 billion package for Canada’s AI sector – South China Morning Post

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Canada is launching a fund to boost its artificial intelligence sector and creating a new AI safety institute as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to roll out spending announcements in advance of a new budget.
The government unveiled a C$2.4 billion (US$1.8 billion) package of measures related to artificial intelligence on Sunday. The centrepiece is C$2 billion (US$1.47 billion) for “computing capabilities and technological infrastructure” that can accelerate the work of AI researchers, start-ups and other firms, according to a statement.

Other money will be allocated to speed the adoption of AI in sectors such as agriculture and healthcare, the statement said. The funds “will help harness the full potential of AI so Canadians, and especially young Canadians, can get good-paying jobs while raising our productivity, and growing our economy”, Trudeau said.

Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Francois-Philippe Champagne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a visit to the Scale AI offices in Montreal, Quebec on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Benjamin Bergen, head of the Council of Canadian Innovators, said his group was looking for more clarity on how companies will be able to gain access to the computing power and infrastructure the government plans to make available. “If this gives Canadian companies the resources to compete globally, today’s announcement is a step in the right direction,” he said.

The prime minister made the announcement in Montreal, one of a number of AI hubs that has emerged in Canada. Quebec’s largest city has developed expertise in fundamental research, partly because of the presence of renowned AI researcher Yoshua Bengio. Last year, he joined Elon Musk and Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak in signing a letter calling on developers to hit the pause button on training powerful AI models.

Bengio said during the Montreal event that many researchers “are very worried about the trajectory that AI is taking”. He hailed the proposed Canadian AI Safety Institute, which the government announced with a C$50 million budget. “Canada places itself on the right side of history with this announcement.”

Canada has yet to adopt a law to regulate AI. The Artificial Intelligence and Data Act was introduced in 2022, but it is still under consideration by members of parliament.

More than 140,000 people were known to be active AI professionals in Canada, as of last year, according to the government. In 2022, almost 30 per cent of all venture capital activity in Canada, or about C$8.6 billion, was related to AI.

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Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told Bloomberg News in March that it will soon be mandatory for the government to be given advance notice when non-Canadian firms plan to invest in key technology sectors such as AI and quantum computing.

The notice would give the government time to consider the national security impacts of the investment – a measure that is seen as aimed at controlling the flow of Chinese money into Canadian entities.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to release her budget plan for the financial year 2024-25 on April 16, but the government has held a series of events to release parts of it.

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