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Foreign direct investment (FDI) had a banner year in Canada in 2021.

The FDI Report 2021, released by Invest in Canada, revealed that global businesses invested a staggering $75.5-billion in the country last year. It was the highest rate of FDI to Canada in 15 years, according to the federal government’s investment attraction and promotion agency.

Depending on your perception, the stat is either immensely heartening or somewhat concerning. There is a misconception that FDI can lead to job losses and other negative repercussions for Canadians, but here is a compelling argument to be made that a good year for FDI is a good year for Canadians. (Keep in mind the old saying: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”)

Most of the FDI in 2021 was recorded by global companies already operating in Canada. Once an international business chooses to invest here, it tends to stick around, reinvesting over the long term. Those investments have concrete benefits. For example, FDI can deliver new technology to Canadian industries, propelling growth and ensuring we remain competitive on a global stage.

It can also create jobs. In 2019, 2.5 million Canadians were employed by foreign-owned multinational corporations.

“We’re right at the edge of future technology,” says Michael Henderson, managing director at Ubisoft Winnipeg, one of eight Canadian studios that were built thanks to FDI by the French video-game developer behind hits such as Just Dance and Roller Champions. “We’ve worked with other studios around the world on photogrammetry tools, on machine learning tools, on procedural generation of game content and future things that players haven’t even heard of yet.”

This “co-development,” says Henderson, allows Canadian developers to work on some of the industry’s “toughest tech challenges.”

After boosting the Manitoba studio to 100 employees in under five years and making $950-million in new investments, Ubisoft recently pledged to invest another $139-million by 2030.

Another key benefit of FDI is the creation of “high-value” jobs, meaning the kind of employment that pays well, that is stable and that has plenty of room for advancement for Canada’s highly educated workforce. According to Invest in Canada’s FDI Report 2021, companies announced 736 projects directly linked to foreign investment, which they project will create over 34,000 jobs across the country.

German technology giant Siemens is expanding its operations in Canada with a new Critical Infrastructure Defense Centre in Fredericton, N.B.Supplied

“I’m very proud to be part of a company that is trying to improve the life of Canadians through technology,” says Yusuf Tokmakci, IT head at Siemens, the German technology giant. In addition to its Canadian headquarters in Oakville, Ont., Siemens chose Fredericton, N.B., for its first Critical Infrastructure Defence Centre (CIDC), a key part of its pioneering work in cybersecurity.

“Through these kinds of reinvestments, highly technical resources not only have access to the latest and greatest technology, they also have the opportunity to work within an ecosystem with others to solve the challenges that Canada is facing.”

As cybersecurity becomes an increasingly global concern, Siemens employees in Canada will be armed with the skills required to make Canada an international leader in a high-growth industry.

FDI can also be an important employment driver in rural and remote parts of the country. Iron Ore Co. of Canada (IOC) is operated by Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto, which employs 12,000 Canadians at 35 sites across the country. IOC is a major employer in eastern and northern Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, employing 2,800 people in those communities, and it partners with four (soon five) nearby First Nations communities.

“On a professional level, without these investments, there might not be much room to grow or job security,” says Alyson Rumbolt, operator at IOC. “But with these investments, it’s a good place to explore different options and you have that within this company.”

Investments in life sciences also featured prominently in 2021. Global pharmaceutical firm F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG is investing $500-million and creating 500 jobs after choosing the company’s Canadian headquarters in Mississauga as its Global Pharma Technical (PT) Operations site.

“We went through a highly competitive process evaluating different locations,” says Damian Siggins,

global head of transformation and site head, PT Mississauga at Roche. “All the assumptions we found about talent and the ability to attract real talent into your environment, which is the cornerstone of any operation, it’s here; particularly when we look at the work we want to do: data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

The Mississauga Economic Development Office notes the investment is significant both in size and what it means to Canada and the global market. “It’s a testament to Roche’s confidence in the fact that life-sciences sector companies worldwide find Mississauga and Canada an attractive place to build the future innovations and technologies that will fuel new product commercializations for decades to come,” explains Harold Dremin, senior manager, business investment and sector development at the Mississauga Economic Development Office.

“Life sciences is a sector of incredible growth. All levels of government have demonstrated their commitment to ensure that life-sciences companies come here, they innovate, they commercialize and then they globalize from here.”

This investment is just another example of how FDI can benefit Canadians now and into the future, from boosting the economy to encouraging innovation to supporting sustainable initiatives.

An earlier section of this story on plans for Ceres Global, a U.S.-based company in the canola processing industry, to invest in a facility in Northgate Sask., has been removed because the details of the investment changed.


Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Invest in Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.