Western Economic Diversification Canada
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Section 1: Introduction

1.1 Acknowledgement

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) would like to thank all of the key informants and survey participants who generously gave of their time and knowledge to take part in the Business Productivity and Growth Evaluation. Without their participation and their insights, this report would not have been possible. The evaluators acknowledge the work done by Ference Weicker & Company Ltd. (the consultants) in collecting key informant, focus group and survey data.

1.2 Background

Business Productivity and Growth is one of three sub-programs supporting Western Economic Diversification’s (the department’s) Business Development and Innovation Program, which ultimately contributes to the department’s strategic outcome of growing and diversifying the western Canadian economy. Business Productivity and Growth assists western Canadian businesses, business service providers, industry, and research organizations in enhancing business productivity, competitiveness, and growth of western Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The sub-program’s three activities promote: 1) access to business development services, capital, and leveraged capital; 2) adoption of sound management and business practices and technology; and 3) access to skilled labour.

Business Productivity and Growth has been one of the department’s organizational priorities from 2009–10 to 2013–14. During this period, 87 Business Productivity and Growth projects, totalling $90 million in departmental funding, were approved under the Western Diversification Program Authority (WDP).

Historically, the department has supported business productivity and growth because:

  • Productivity and growth is crucial for ensuring long-term economic growth and improving the overall standard of living of western Canadians;
     
  • Western Canadian SMEs need to produce goods and services in an increasingly efficient and cost-effective manner to compete in a global marketplace, or risk losing market share in both domestic and international markets; and
     
  • Western Canada lags in business productivity when compared to other major industrialized economies, largely “due to differences in the rate of adopting new technologies, business practices and innovations, research and development expenditures, as well as machinery and equipment investments”.2

The department has implemented this sub-program by investing in productivity initiatives that encourage the development and adoption of innovative business technologies, processes and practices, including efficiencies in strengthening regional supply chains and by supporting capacity-building initiatives, including skills training in critical sectors which were facing labour shortages in Western Canada.

1.3 Evaluation Context

Under the Government of Canada’s Financial Administration Act and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) Policy and Directive on Evaluation, departments are required to undertake an evaluation of all ongoing programs of Grants and Contributions every five years. The department’s Business Productivity and Growth programming was last evaluated as part of the 2008 Western Diversification Program Evaluation. WD’s approved 2013–18 Evaluation Plan committed to evaluating the Business Productivity and Growth sub-program. This evaluation covers the five fiscal years 2009–10 to 2013–14.

Although they are part of the Business Productivity and Growth sub-program, the members of the Western Canada Business Service Network (WCBSN) were not included in this evaluation because their program delivery and performance issues differ substantially from the funded projects and combining them with the projects could obscure important issues. Furthermore, two members of the WCBSN were recently evaluated.3

Evaluation Scope and Objectives

The evaluation focused on the relevance and performance of the department’s Business Productivity and Growth programming. The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the extent to which the Business Productivity and Growth programming supported western Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises and contributed to developing and diversifying the western Canadian economy. Key evaluation issues are outlined in the table below.

Evaluation Issues
Relevance
  • Is there a continued need for the Business Productivity and Growth programming?
  • Is the Business Productivity and Growth programming aligned to departmental and federal government priorities?
  • Is the Business Productivity and Growth programming consistent with federal roles and responsibilities?
Performance
Achievement of Intended Outcomes Outcomes
To what extent has the programming achieved intended outcomes of:
  • Improved access to business development services, capital, and leveraged capital
  • Adoption of sound management and business practices, and current technology
  • Access to skilled labour
  • Western SMEs that are engaged in international business and competitive

Success Factors
What factors facilitated or impeded the achievement of programming outcomes?

Unexpected Outcomes
Were there unintended positive and/or negative outcomes from the department’s involvement in innovation?

Performance Measurement
How useful is the program’s performance measurement strategy and performance measures?

Risk Management
Are risk management strategies identified?

Demonstration of Efficiency and Economy
  • Is the Business Productivity and Growth programming achieving its intended outcomes in the most economical manner?
  • Is the Business Productivity and Growth programming undertaking activities and delivering products in the most efficient manner?

 


[2] Western Economic Diversification Canada. 2013–14 Report on Plans and Priorities.

[3] 1) Evaluation of the Women’s Enterprise Initiative:  http://www.wd-deo.gc.ca/eng/60.asp; 2) Evaluation of the Canada Business Network: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/ae-ve.nsf/eng/h_03696.html.