ITAC Welcomes Ontario Throne Speech Commitments on Talent, Modernizing Infrastructure and Improving Ontario’s Business Climate

 

The Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) welcomes the Government of Ontario’s commitment to increasing investments in worker training and improving the province’s business competitiveness, as outlined in the September 12th Speech from the Throne.

ITAC CEO Robert Watson notes that: “The shortage of talent in the technology sector is a major issue that is hampering the growth of innovative companies. We need more students and workers pursuing technology careers. The education, experiential learning and re-training programs outlined in the Throne Speech are important avenues for addressing this challenge.”

 

IDC Canada has found that Canada’s IT Skills Gap is currently at 54,000 positions mostly in applications development, IT operations and business-centric IT roles. In 2014, Canadian firms spent close to C$1 billion to fill this gap.

ITAC also welcomes the Governments continued focus on upgrading Ontario’s health care system and transportation infrastructure, noting the ICT sector has a central role to play in driving these priorities.

Watson notes that, “Information and communications technology (ICT) is a horizontal driver that will support better investments in all of the government’s priority areas. From better outcomes and front-line patient experience in our healthcare system to investments in “smart” infrastructure with sensors and other connected technologies in the internet of things, Ontario’s ICT industry will help the government deliver better services and reduce costs.”

ITAC also welcomed Ontario’s continued commitment to maintaining a low tax environment and investing to attract emerging innovation industries to Ontario, such as autonomous vehicles.

ITAC looks forward to discussing these priority areas with the government soon and continuing collaboration to modernize Ontario’s economy and improve the effectiveness of public services.

BACKGROUND

 On September 12, 2016 Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, launched a new session of the Ontario Legislature through traditional Speech from the Throne. Generally, mid-mandate Throne Speeches update and provide a broad overview the government’s priorities leading up to the next provincial election in 2018.

Highlights of the September 2016 Throne Speech for ITAC members include:

 Reduced Electricity Rates: 

The big headline of the throne speech is that the government will introduce legislation to rebate the provincial portion of the HST from consumer electricity bills – equivalent to an 8% reduction starting January 1, 2017.  This rebate will also extend to small businesses.

For larger firms, the government will expand eligibility for the Industrial Conservation Initiative – a program that provides incentives for large electricity consumers (3-5MW) to reduce demand during peak hours over the year.  Currently data processing/hosting businesses and large manufacturers are eligible for the program, but this will be expanded to all segments of the economy.

 Focus on Talent Development:

The throne speech emphasizes the Government’s commitment to ensure Ontario workers are ready for the jobs of the future, including:

  • Improving mathematics education in primary and secondary schools.
  • Increasing access to co-ops and experiential learning opportunities
  • Investing in jobs training that align with the job market of today and tomorrow, including working with industry, educators and unions on new training and retraining programs.

 Investments in Healthcare:

Investment will aim to improve front-line care and patient experience. While not specifically mentioned, this needs to include investments to increase the deployment of the use of information technology and e-health services across the health care system.

Investments in Infrastructure:

The government restated its commitment to invest $160B over 12 years to update highways and transit infrastructure – including transforming the GO system with Regional Express Rail to quadruple the number of weekly trips (and better connect innovation hubs across the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor).

Business Climate:

Ontario will continue to maintain a low-tax environment and actively pursue investments from around the world, with a focus on autonomous and electric vehicles.

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