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Economic Viewpoint

Will Canada Unleash AI’s Productivity Potential, or Sit Too Long on the Sidelines?

June 13, 2024
Jimmy Jean, Vice-President, Chief Economist and Strategist, Florence Jean-Jacobs, Principal Economist, Marc Desormeaux, Principal Economist, and Kari Norman, Economist

  • In this report, we assess the immense opportunities and potential risks presented by artificial intelligence (AI) and what they could mean for Canada’s economy.
  • Most studies find that over half of all jobs in advanced economies are exposed to AI. But  we should be wary of predictions of major layoffs across the board. AI has the potential to create new occupations and tasks. The transition will require public involvement, including for upskilling current and future workers.
  • AI’s productivity gains are beginning to show  anecdotally in some industries, but a society-wide improvement on this front is likely still a few decades away.
  • AI also introduces a range of challenges, limitations and risks. These include the potential for technological disparities between larger and smaller firms, financial market volatility, cybersecurity concerns, threats to critical infrastructure and political interference. Managing these risks will require careful consideration paired with strategic and agile policymaking.
  • Regulation and policymaking for the AI era are still in their early stages, but legislation recently enacted in the European Union may serve as a blueprint for other countries. Canada does not currently have an AI‑specific regulatory framework in place, but one is being reviewed in the House of Commons.
  • Canada is a world leader in AI research but lags many of its international peers with respect to early AI adoption and commercialization. 
  • While Canada boasts top AI talent, its AI ecosystem was not built with adoption in mind, and that is where action is clearly needed. Greater adoption of AI by government bodies to tackle social and environmental issues could accelerate startup creation and drive commercialization of made-in-Canada AI solutions. 
  • Ultimately, to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, it will be imperative to combine the best aspects of human intelligence and creativity with the power of AI.
NOTE TO READERS: The letters k, M and B are used in texts, graphs and tables to refer to thousands, millions and billions respectively. IMPORTANT: This document is based on public information and may under no circumstances be used or construed as a commitment by Desjardins Group. While the information provided has been determined on the basis of data obtained from sources that are deemed to be reliable, Desjardins Group in no way warrants that the information is accurate or complete. The document is provided solely for information purposes and does not constitute an offer or solicitation for purchase or sale. Desjardins Group takes no responsibility for the consequences of any decision whatsoever made on the basis of the data contained herein and does not hereby undertake to provide any advice, notably in the area of investment services. Data on prices and margins is provided for information purposes and may be modified at any time based on such factors as market conditions. The past performances and projections expressed herein are no guarantee of future performance. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions and forecasts contained herein are those of the document’s authors and do not represent the opinions of any other person or the official position of Desjardins Group.