Western Economic Diversification Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Organizational Context

Raison d'être

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) was established in 1988 to promote the development and diversification of the economy of Western Canada and to advance the interests of the West in national economic policy, program and project development and implementation. The Minister of Health, supported by the Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification), is responsible for this organization.

As the department responsible for regional development in Western Canada, WD develops and supports economic policies, programs and activities to promote economic growth throughout Western Canada.


Our Vision

To be leaders in creating a more diversified western Canadian economy that has strong, competitive and innovative businesses and communities.

WD's mandate, derived from the Western Economic Diversification Act, is to develop and diversify the western Canadian economy. This broad mandate allows the department to implement diverse programs and initiatives across the West to help western Canadians create strong, competitive and innovative businesses and communities.

With offices in each western province and its headquarters in Edmonton, WD provides a strong federal presence to promote economic development in the West. Its western base has enabled the department to foster extensive partnerships across Western Canada with business and community organizations, research and academic institutions, Aboriginal groups as well as provincial and municipal governments.

An important contributor to a prosperous western Canadian economy, WD helps build on the West's traditional economic strengths while supporting the transition to a more diverse, modern economy.


These connections enable the department to identify and support economic opportunities in the West and to leverage its investments to benefit the western Canadian economy. In addition, through its strong connections with federal departments across Canada and its office in Ottawa, WD ensures that western interests and perspectives are reflected in national decision-making.

WD focuses its activities in three program areas:

Launched in October 2013, the Western Innovation (WINN) Initiative helps western-based SMEs bring innovative technology-based products, processes and services to market.

Business Development and Innovation: WD helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) develop and grow, create jobs, expand their markets, increase their exports and become more innovative and productive. The department assists SMEs with international business engagement and works to attract investment to the region, as well as assist western Canadian SMEs to access opportunities linked to government procurement. Further, WD promotes the development and growth of the knowledge-based economy by building innovation capacity and supporting the commercialization of new knowledge-based products, processes and services.

Community Economic Growth: WD helps communities sustain their local economies and adjust to changing economic circumstances through departmental programs and by delivering national initiatives on behalf of the Government of Canada in Western Canada. WD also supports community-based organizations that provide western entrepreneurs with the information, training and loans they need to start and grow their businesses.

Policy, Advocacy and Coordination: WD identifies opportunities to strengthen the western Canadian economy and coordinate economic development activities, policies and programs across the West. WD works to build strategic relationships with key decision makers across Canada and works with western Canadian industry on defence-related procurement opportunities.

WD initiated the Western Diversification Program (WDP) Call for Proposals (CFP) process to enhance responsiveness to economic trends and industry needs and ongoing alignment with Government of Canada priorities.

Utilizing the department's flexibility and ability to respond quickly to the priorities and needs of the West, WD has continued to deliver national initiatives on behalf of the federal government in Western Canada. These include the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund (CIIF) under Canada's Economic Action Plan (EAP), programming to upgrade and expand western Canadian infrastructure, as well as the Economic Development Initiative aimed at supporting businesses and economic development in western Canadian Francophone communities.

WD is an important contributor to a prosperous western Canadian economy and works to build on the West's traditional economic strengths while supporting a more diverse economy.

Strategic Outcome and Program Alignment Architecture

The Program Alignment Architecture (PAA) provides an overview of how a department's programs and activities are aligned and how their expected results are organized to contribute to achieving the department's strategic outcome. In 2013–14, WD implemented a new, streamlined PAA, which enabled the department to strengthen the capacity to evaluate outcomes and results and to enhance management capacity to allocate resources.

These programs, comprising the department's PAA, help ensure that Western Canada continues to make a strong contribution to Canada's economic success.


Strategic Outcome: A growing and diversified western Canadian economy

1.1 Program: Business Development and Innovation

  • 1.1.1 Sub-Program: Trade, Investment and Market Access
  • 1.1.2 Sub-Program: Business Productivity and Growth
  • 1.1.3 Sub-Program: Innovation Capacity Building
  • 1.1.4 Sub-Program: Technology Commercialization

1.2 Program: Community Economic Growth

  • 1.2.1 Sub-Program: Infrastructure Programming
  • 1.2.2 Sub-Program: Community Development
  • 1.2.3 Sub-Program: Community Futures Program
  • 1.2.4 Sub-Program: Targeted Economic Initiatives

1.3 Program: Policy, Advocacy and Coordination

  • 1.3.1 Sub-Program: Advocacy and Coordination
  • 1.3.2 Sub-Program: Economic Analysis

Internal Services


Organizational Priorities

In the fall of 2013, WD undertook broad engagement with key stakeholders across Western Canada in order to gain feedback on western Canadian economic issues, challenges, opportunities and priorities. Based on an analysis of opportunities for economic growth and diversification and stakeholders' feedback, WD implemented six new priorities: innovation; skills development and training; Aboriginal economic growth; maximizing the ability of western Canadian businesses to capitalize on federal defence procurement opportunities; trade and investment; and revitalization of the Western Canada Business Service Network[2](WCBSN). This approach will ensure that the department focuses its resources on areas that have the greatest impact on the western Canadian economy. These six new priorities are included in the 2014–15 Report on Plans and Priorities[3] (RPP) as departmental priorities for the next fiscal year.

Although these priorities include new areas of focus, particularly in skills development and Aboriginal economic growth, the focus on innovation, trade and investment, federal defence procurement and the WCBSN have been priorities for the department in recent years.

In 2013–14, WD focused on the five organizational priorities below as outlined in the 2013–14 RPP. These key areas provide greater clarity and focus for the department in pursuing its strategic outcome of a growing and diversified western Canadian economy.


Organizational Priorities
Priority Type[4] Program(s)

Technology Commercialization


Business Development and Innovation

Summary of Progress
  • WD contributed to 12 new projects in support of this priority area, totaling $24.3 million, to facilitate technology commercialization in emerging sectors in Western Canada.
  • Further to its announcement in the 2012 Federal Budget, WD launched WINN[5] to assist SMEs in the commercialization of new innovative products, processes and services for domestic and international markets, with a particular focus on creating market-ready technologies. A comprehensive outreach campaign resulted in WD receiving 391 applications through the first intake. The first round of investments was announced in June 2014.
Trade and Investment Ongoing Business Development and Innovation
Summary of Progress
  • WD contributed to 16 new projects in support of this priority area, totaling $7.4 million. These projects will support western Canadian engagement in international markets, facilitate connections between western Canadian businesses and multinational aerospace and defence companies, promote western Canadian products, services and technologies abroad and attract foreign investment to Western Canada.
Business Productivity and Growth Ongoing Business Development and Innovation, and Community Economic Growth
Summary of Progress
  • WD contributed to 18 new projects in support of this priority area, totaling $12.4 million. These projects supported SMEs to create jobs, improve their business processes, adopt new technologies and gain access to skilled labour.
  • The WCBSN provided a total of 242,878 business information, advisory and training services to SMEs in rural and urban areas, as well as $82.0 million in loans that leveraged an additional $97.6 million. The impacts included 5,507 jobs created or maintained through lending; 2,239 jobs created or maintained through business services; 1,304 businesses created, maintained or expanded through lending; and 2,058 businesses created, maintained or expanded through business services. In addition, the Canada Business Service Centres in SK and MB were transitioned to not-for-profit models (agreements effective April 1, 2014) for consistency across the West.
Advancing the Interests of Western Canada Previously Committed to Policy, Advocacy and Coordination
Summary of Progress
  • WD held a series of innovation-focused roundtables across Western Canada which engaged western Canadian industry, associations, researchers and academia on the advancement of innovation in Western Canada. These roundtables helped WD to bring western Canadian perspectives to national innovation policy making, enhanced departmental programs, policies and advocacy activities related to innovation, strengthened collaboration between key stakeholders and reinforced WD's role as a convener and pathfinder.
  • WD represented western interests in the development of national policies and strategies such as the federal Defence Procurement Strategy[6] and the Global Markets Action Plan.[7]
  • WD enhanced business connections between SMEs and major international aerospace and defence companies through activities such as those outlined in Western Canada's Shipbuilding Action Plan,[8] including the Western Canada Shipbuilding Symposium.[9]
  • WD facilitated business development opportunities and access to international markets by leveraging Canada's Industrial and Regional Benefits policy[10] to respond to 24 supplier development requests and to conduct five supplier development missions and events on behalf of international aerospace and defence firms.
  • WD supported the work of the Special Federal Representative on West Coast Energy Infrastructure by contributing to interdepartmental engagement and policy discussions.
Managing in a Changing Environment Previously Committed to All programs
Summary of Progress
  • The Deputy Minister led a staff engagement process to develop a vision for the Blueprint 2020 initiative[11] that focused on strengthening the workplace, supporting employee development and enhancing programs and service offerings to sustain a culture of continuous learning that is innovative, stimulating and informative.
  • WD completed centralization of its accounting operations to the Saskatoon office and its procurement functions to the Edmonton office to enhance efficiency. The department is also implementing a lifecycle approach to managing its Grants and Contributions (G&C) projects; this involves having the same staff member assigned to a project from conception to completion, ensuring better continuity in developing and monitoring funded projects.
  • WD streamlined its business processes by maximizing the use of technology. Changes were introduced, in particular WINN and the Call for Proposals, to improve service delivery and to manage resources more efficiently.
  • WD collaborated with Canadian Heritage to find a common CRM solution for the Regional Development Agencies (RDA) to improve program delivery efficiency and services. The department also collaborated with other RDAs on the Official Languages Twinning Program and Common Human Resources Business Practices.
  • WD implemented the streamlined PAA and the associated Performance Measurement Framework (PMF). The new, streamlined PAA eliminates overlap and duplication, assists the department in telling its performance story and enhances the capacity to evaluate outcomes and results of WD programming.


Risk Analysis

Key Risks
Risk Risk Response Strategy Link to Program Alignment Architecture

Low rate of investment in research and development (R&D) and adoption of technologies by SMEs

  • Supported 28 projects with $86.0 million in total WD funding.[12]
  • Launched the WINN Initiative.
  • Business Development and Innovation

Small domestic market and increasing global competition

  • Supported 16 projects with $7.4 million in total WD funding.
  • Business Development and Innovation

Declining competitiveness and slow productivity growth of SMEs

  • Supported 18 projects with $12.4 million in total WD funding.
  • Business Development and Innovation


Organizational Context for Risks

Western Canada is a significant contributor to the overall Canadian economy. Home to about one-third of all Canadians, Western Canada's real gross domestic product accounted for 37 percent of Canada's economic output in 2012. The West accounted for 78,300 or 35 percent of the 223,500 net jobs created in Canada in 2013, and nearly 40 percent of Canada's exported goods. Western Canada has benefited from the growing global demand for commodities and the development of the mining and energy industries.

Despite its economic strengths, Western Canada faces a number of economic challenges including low rates of R&D, a small domestic market, increasing global competition, and slow productivity growth. These challenges are partially related to the region's traditional strengths in primary production, which tend to be less R&D intensive and pose a challenge for improving labour productivity. By pursuing new investments in priority areas, WD will work to respond to these external risks through the diversification and growth of the western Canadian economy.

To help address the low rate of investment in research and development and adoption of technologies by SMEs, the department launched the WINN Initiative in 2013–14. WINN supports SMEs in their efforts to commercialize innovative, technology-based products, processes and services.

WD also transitioned from a continuous application intake process and introduced a new Call for Proposals (CFP) model[13]for WDP.

Given WD's mandate, these responses demonstrate the department's ability to adapt and adjust to changes to the internal and external environment. Continuing to engage in effective risk management practices will strengthen the department's role in contributing to Western Canada's economic growth and prosperity.