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, the authors of this report believe there are three imperatives to why the federal government should adopt a platform economy strategy for Canada.
The platform economy in Canada is growing and has significantly accelerated with COVID-19.
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.
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.
The authors have identified three major gaps in Canada’s governance regarding digital platforms that must be addressed: it is reactive, it is becoming privatised, and it is resulting in asymmetry of power that favour platforms rather than Canadian businesses and workers.