Canada 3.0 conference under way

$178 mil will be funneled into digital companies

TORONTO -- The Canadian government on Monday unveiled a vision for "digital shovels" to help build out Canada's new-media infrastructure in hard times.

Federal industry minister Tony Clement said at the inaugural Canada 3.0 conference in Stratford, Ontario, that CAN$200 million ($178 million) will go into Ottawa's Industrial Research Assistance Program to fund small- and medium-size digital companies.

"The $200 million committed to IRAP will allow it to double its contribution to emerging companies," Clement said.

The concept of digital shovels discussed Monday by industry and government execs in Ontario's Silicon Glen aims at stimulating digital investment and innovation countrywide as Ottawa attempts to stimulate the country's ailing economy.

Also attending Canada 3.0, the two-day conference that has drawn more than 1,000 industry and government delegates, is Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, and executives from domestic broadcasters CTV, TVOntario, Corus Entertainment and the National Film Board of Canada.

The Canada 3.0 conference is structured along four streams -- building digital infrastructure, mobility and media, digital media research and commercialization and skills development -- with a focus on how to spur private sector innovation with taxpayer subsidies.

Ottawa's latest cash injection into local digital companies comes as domestic broadcasters continue to pitch the federal government on bailing them out as their TV ad revenue collapses during the economic downturn.