Advances in big data, algorithms and cloud computing over the past decade have contributed to the emergence and widespread use of digital platforms in Canada like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Etsy and others, allowing workers and businesses to interact in new platform-based and controlled markets. This phenomenon, known as the emergence of the Platform Economy, has significant implications for the Future of Work in Canada. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend as more Canadians than ever before turn towards digital platforms to support their livelihoods.
Given this new reality, we believe there are three imperatives to why the federal government should adopt a Platform Economy Strategy for Canada.
First: The Platform Economy in Canada is growing and has significantly accelerated with COVID-19.
Second: Digital platforms have disrupted Canadian workers and businesses, most notably in urban centres, but there are signs that rural regions and smaller municipalities, ill-prepared to address the Platform Economy’s complexities, are next.
Third: Federal, provincial and municipal actions to date on the Platform Economy have been piecemeal, with no co-ordinated or coherent efforts to effectively address the unique challenges and opportunities of digital platforms’ use by Canadian workers and businesses.
We identified three major gaps in Canada’s governance regarding digital platforms that must be addressed: it is reactive, it is becoming privatized, and it is resulting in asymmetry of power that favour platforms rather than Canadian businesses and workers. Thus, our proposal for a more coherent and co-ordinated Platform Economy Strategy in Canada consists of three recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Establish a National Centre for the Platform Economy.
Recommendation 2: Enhance the Competition Bureau’s oversight of the Platform Economy.
Recommendation 3: Initiate federally led regional assessments of digital platform activities.
These complementary actions will support enhanced place-based governance on digital platforms in Canada. These ensure that diverse Canadian workers and businesses, in both rural and urban settings, reap the full benefits of the Future of Work—one that is more inclusive and resilient post-pandemic.