Home Business Nate Glubish new Alberta innovation minister as Premier Smith names cabinet

Nate Glubish new Alberta innovation minister as Premier Smith names cabinet

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Newly-elected Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced her cabinet appointees, with Nate Glubish taking on the innovation agenda.

The appointment to minister of technology and innovation will likely come as no surprise as Glubish (formerly minister of Service Alberta) has a history with the innovation sector and has been vocal about his interest in tech.

Glubish told BetaKit that his appointment and the title change signal that Alberta is “doubling down on tech.”

Before joining the political sphere, Glubish was an investment manager at Yaletown Partners where he helped oversee Accelerate Fund II. He has also held positions at other venture capital firms and worked with tech companies in directorial roles.

In an interview with BetaKit, Glubish called innovation his “passion” and “expertise.”

“This is my world, this is my wheelhouse,” Glubish said. “Their language is my language, and I’m looking forward to spending more time focusing exclusively on technology innovation-related matters.”

The minister framed his appointment as a signal that Smith’s government will continue to invest in the innovation economy. Glubish’s title, which differs from his predecessor Doug Schweitzer, is another such signal. The innovation agenda was formerly handled by the minister of jobs, economy, and innovation, while Glubish’s title is minister of technology and innovation. The jobs and economy portfolios have been handed to Brian Jean, who was among the six candidates vying for premiership before Smith was chosen.

Glubish told BetaKit that his appointment and the title change signal that Alberta is “doubling down on tech.”

Glubish was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in 2019, as the MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park. He served as minister of Service Alberta for the past three and a half years. Under this new role, Glubish will continue to hold some of his former responsibilities, such as bringing more tech into government services, in addition to taking on the broader innovation agenda.

RELATED: Alberta tech CEOs sign letter claiming restrictions over “software engineer” title hampering province’s talent gains

Along with his other new cabinet members, Glubish will be sworn in and officially take the innovation title on Monday morning.

In his new role, Glubish replaces Tanya Fir, who had taken over the role temporarily after Schweitzer stepped down earlier this year.

Schweitzer was appointed to Alberta’s innovation portfolio in 2020. When Schweitzer announced his departure earlier this year, the news was met with disappointment from stakeholders in Alberta’s tech sector, as they considered the minister a “champion” of tech.

The minister helped lead provincial spending on tech, and the creation of the Alberta Technology and Innovation Strategy (ATIS), which the provincial government launched as part of Budget 2022.

With Schweitzer’s departure and the change in premier, there were questions as to what that could mean for the hard-fought relationship between the provincial government and the tech sector.

However, the larger consensus prior to the naming of Smith as premier, was that the province’s move away from a boom-and-bust resource economy will only continue.

Speaking to that, Glubish said he is aiming to build and expand on the work that Schweitzer had been doing.

RELATED: Former Alberta innovation minister Doug Schweitzer joins Deloitte as senior advisor

While the appointment of Glubish indicates that Smith’s government will continue to make innovation a priority, the first few weeks of her tenure have not been without hiccups. In addition to apologizing for controversial comments, Smith has also had to contend with a pressing concern from the tech sector.

Last week, a number of Alberta’s leading technology companies issued an open letter to the newly elected provincial premier over concerns that a professional standards body is discouraging workers from locating to the province.

They wrote Smith protesting the “aggressive position” the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) has taken over the title of software engineer, calling the legal action it’s taken against companies like Jobber and the limitation it places upon hiring software engineers an “existential threat.”

Following APEGA’s response to the letter, which stated in part that “any exception to the use of the title engineer will set a dangerous precedent and put the lives of Albertans at risk,” the CEOs published another letter to Kaycee Madu, who will become Alberta’s deputy premier and minister of skilled trades and professions.

With 100 signatories to the original letter, the new one reiterates the positions and asks for a joint meeting with Smith and Madu to discuss the matter.

“Nobody is arguing that Professional Engineers should not be regulated and held to a rigorous standard,” the letter reads. “But it would be absurd to require network systems architects to be regulated by the Alberta Association of Architects, nor would it make sense for audio engineers who help musicians record their albums to be regulated by APEGA.”

RELATED: As Canadian venture funding lost steam in Q2 2022, Alberta tech continued to shine

When asked about the letter, Glubish told BetaKit that coming from a tech background he understands that software engineer is a globally accepted term, and the reasons why tech companies are concerned. “I understand where their frustrations are coming from in that they want to be able to use the globally recognized terms.”

He noted that he plans to work with the province’s new skilled trades minister and the premier to better understand the concerns coming from both sides, and to figure out the role the government should play.

Glubish also spoke about some of his priorities as he takes on his new position. He noted plans to continue his work from Service Alberta to modernize government services with technology, and said he hopes to create more procurement opportunities for local startups.

“By doing that, and by voting with our dollars as a customer, we are validating those companies, and those entrepreneurs and the work that they’re doing,” he said. “We are making them more investable to VCs. And that, I believe, is going to create some really exciting momentum to create more jobs, to grow and diversify our economy, and to attract more venture investments into Alberta tech companies.”

Feature image courtesy of Alberta Newsroom.

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