Posted June 6, 2011
June 6, 2011. Ottawa. We have just seen the two major events in setting out a government’s priorities, not only for the coming year, but for the coming next few years. First, we had last Friday’s Speech from the Throne; and today we saw the tabling of the June 6, 2011, Federal Budget. As expected, neither the Speech from the Throne nor the Budget were much different from what had been announced prior to the election. The Conservative government was elected with a majority largely by promising to stick to these previously announced plans.
It is useful, however, to recap those elements that are of interest to Canada’s ICT industry and Canada’s digital economy. Both the Speech from the Throne and the Budget place significant emphasis on innovation. Both reiterate the government’s intention to release and implement a Digital Economy Strategy. The Speech from the Throne states:
In order to improve Canada’s productivity, enhance our economic competitiveness and increase our standard of living, our Government will continue to make targeted investments to promote and encourage research and development in Canada's private sector and in our universities, colleges and polytechnics. It will look for ways to support innovation while ensuring that federal investment in research and development is effective and maximizes results for Canadians. It will also release and implement a Digital Economy Strategy that enhances digital infrastructure and encourages Canadian businesses to adopt digital technologies and provide digital-skills training for their employees and new hires.
The Budget refers in a number of places to investments in the key drivers of economic growth: innovation, investment, and education and training. Under the heading, “Investing in Innovation, Education and Training: Driving Innovation – Canada’s Digital Economy Strategy,” the Budget states: “The Next Phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan sets the stage for the Digital Economy Strategy to make Canada a leader in the creation, adoption and use of digital technologies and content.”
It also outlines the following items which were also included in the March 22 Budget:
- $80 million in new funding over three years through the Industrial Research Assistance Program to help small and medium-sized businesses accelerate their adoption of key information and communications technologies through collaborative projects with colleges.
- $60 million over the next three years to promote increased student enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy.
- $100 million per year to the Canada Media Fund for investments in the creation of digital content across multiple platforms.
- An additional $37 million per year to support the three federal research granting councils.
- An additional $10 million per year for the Indirect Costs Program, for costs such as those related to operating and maintaining facilities.
- $53.5 million over five years to support the creation of 10 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs, some of which will be active in fields relevant to Canada's Digital Economy Strategy.
- $50 million over five years, beginning in 2012–13, to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics to support its leading research, education and public outreach activities.
Both the Speech from the Throne and the Budget reiterate the determination to carry out a Strategic and Operating Review of government spending to focus on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of government operations and programs. This review will be overseen by a special sub-committee, chaired by Treasury Board President, Tony Clement, and including both HRSDC Minister Diane Finley and Industry Canada Minister Christian Paradis. It appears that the plan will be put in place in the coming year. The Budget states that: “The budgetary savings associated with the Strategic and Operating Review will be reflected in the Government's fiscal projections once these actions are determined and implemented in Budget 2012.”
There are a number of measures to support small business and entrepreneurs, including the previously announced $1,000 Hiring Credit for Small Business. There is a reiteration in both the Budget and Speech from the Throne of the desire to cut red tape, a process to be led by the Red Tape Reduction Commission (RTRC), including upgrading the BizPaL service – a key digital technology means of serving Canada’s SME community. Of note, the RTRC reports to the Minister of State, Small Business and Tourism, Maxime Bernier – a former Industry Minister well known to our industry.
Finally, the Budget repeatedly refers to Canada’s fiscal advantage and business advantage. ITAC supports the notion of thinking in terms of a competitive advantage in comparison to other nations in setting our priorities.
To read ITAC’s response to the March 22 Throne Speech and Budget, click here: http://itac.ca/site/media_details/1993.