Officials at two of the country’s IT lobbying groups have latched on to one part of Ontario’s new budget as potentially benefiting the industry.
John Reid, president of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) and Linda Leonard, senior vice-president of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), both cite the $2.5 billion over 10 years set aside by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government as for jobs and prosperity as one of the small nuggets in the budget.
The document can’t be described as an innovation budget, Reid said, but the fund – which he said should really be described as money for attracting business investment from outside the province – will help the IT sector.
He also noted the budget mentioned the government’s commitment to health care, which should dovetail with CATA’s initiative to boost ways IT can help deliver health care.
Leonard acknowledged that spread over 10 years, the $2.5 billion could work out to $250 million a year in real spending – and even then it is to be targeted at 11 sectors of the provincial economy and not just IT. And the details how the funds will be allocated and what organizations will have to do to qualify have yet to be detailed.
Still, she said she’s “confident that the IT sector will do very well. It’s a high growth sector, its top of the food chain in terms of research and development, collaboration with universities and the creation of high value jobs.”
The fund, announced two days before the budget was released, is to help “secure business investments that focus on job-creating innovation, productivity and going global/.”
Combined with the Liberal government’s recent promise to kick in $120 million to support OpenText’s $2 billion expansion in the province and to give Cisco Systems Inc. $220 million towards its $4 billion growth plan “auger well for the IT industry.”
“There’s a clear willingness by the government that in order to retain and expand on mandates by global companies — whether they are Canadian or foreign multinationals — they’ve got to be helping their industrial partners to succeed.”
She noted the budget document itself mentions the Ontario IT cluster — which includes companies in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, the Greater Toronto area and Ottawa region — is the second largest IT in North America.