Few ICT incentives in federal budget

Enterprise-sized organizations looking for federal incentives to buy in information technology were stepped on by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s new budget shoes.

However, the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), which represents the leading hardware and software manufacturers that sell equipment said Thursday it isn’t too disappointed in the budget outline.

“There’s good news here,” said ITAC senior vice-president Linda Leonard.

“There’s some fairly interesting innovation in how they’re going to fund re-training, to make that more tailored to individual workers and employers looking for skills upgrades. That’s an interesting public policy innovation that could help address some of the issues that we encounter finding skilled workers in the ITC labour market.

Federal moves include trying to connect skills training with employers through creating what will be called a Jobs Grant program. For that, however, the Conservative government will need to negotiate the renewal of the $500 million a year labor market agreements with the provinces and territories. Ottawa also wants to renegotiate the $1.95-billion-per-year Labour Market Development Agreements with the provinces and territories to reorient training toward labour market demand.

Ottawa also vows to put in $70 million over three years to support 5,000 more paid internships for post-secondary graduates, as well as to promote education in fields where there is high demand from employers, including in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the skilled trades.

“We’re an industry that’s predicated on the availability of talent, so any progressive measures aimed at better outcomes from the investment we’re making in training and re-training is going to be well received by the industry,” Leonard said.

She also noted there could be funding of some ICT spending through close to $1 billion set aside for aerospace and defence projects, and $200 million over five years for a new Advanced Manufacturing Fund for Ontario.

As for federal ICT spending, the budget says that Ottawa hopes to save money by having bureaucrats travel less and use videoconferencing more – a promise it made in the last budget. For the upcoming fiscal year $20 million will be set aside from Shared Services Canada’s existing budget to improve videoconferencing capacity.

Shared Services Canada is the government’s new combined IT division that serves almost every department. It has started to consolidate those departments’ IT functions and slash the number of data centers, although a number of contracts have yet to be awarded.


So the budget says in the upcoming fiscal year Ottawa will save a modest $8.7 million in software procurement.

There’s also a promise that Treasury Board will develop new procedures that require all publications to be available electronically, part of a shift to make paper documents a rarity.
 Russ Roberts, senior vice-president for finance issues at the Canadian Advanced Technology Association (CATA), which represents startups, system integrators and IT manufacturers, said he likes the mention in the budget of help through the Venture Capital Action Plan for business incubators ($60 million over five years), the creation of Entrepreneur Awards and $18 million for support for young entrepreneurs.

However, CATA was hoping for something to help entrepreneurs commercialize their fledgling creations. Although that is partly touched on through the vencap action plan, commercialization “ has not been emphasized strongly in this budget,” he said.

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