What VARs want in a prime minister

With the Canadian federal election only five days away, many Canadians may still be left wondering which political party and leader to vote for. For the Canadian solution provider community, this level of uncertainty is no different. CDN Now had the chance to speak with several leading Canadian solution providers about which party they’re rooting for, in addition to discussing which attributes they’re looking for from the next leader to be elected into power.

A more balanced focus on the middle-class, stronger investments in technology and increased support for skills and training in the IT space were just some of the common issues that were raised by these solution providers.

Especially with the weakening U.S. economy and the recent Wall Street stock market mayhem, Don Conaby, president of Oshawa, Ont.-based Conpute, a solutions services provider, and also the company claiming the 64th spot on CDN’s Top 100 solution providers list for 2007, said although the Canadian economy is in a good place right now, the country can not help but be affected by its U.S. counterpart’s economical woes.

“If the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold,” he said. “From a business perspective, especially with the economic climate this year, 2008 has been more of a wait-and-see year. People are being much more cautious with their spending and we can’t do anything about the credit crunch.”

That’s why David MacDonald, CEO of Softchoice, a North American large account reseller, and also CDN’s number one solution provider last year, said whoever ends up winning the election must be focused on a more balanced and regulatory environment that places makes an investment in the middle-class, which he says, is where most of the IT spending is coming from. Along with focusing on the middle-class, MacDonald said the next leader to come into power must also be able to drive the nation’s growth and recognition in the global economy as a whole.

“We haven’t developed our productivity levels strong enough,” he suggests. “We need a government that will take advantage of technology. Technology will help us drive our position in the world and will ultimately drive growth and productivity within the global economy.”

Conaby says as a business executive in the IT industry, he tends to be more of a Conservative party supporter. Especially now that the party is touting the introduction of lower taxes for small businesses as part of its political platform, Conaby says tax breaks will help solution providers and other small businesses out there today.

“Taxes are always a burden and we need to work to decrease this,” he adds.

Herman Yeh, the president and owner of Ottawa-based solution provider, Northern Micro, and also the president and board of director for the Canadian IT Provider Association (CITPA), says the government should also encourage more of a knowledge-based IT working environment.

CITPA, Yeh explains, is an association made up of a group of about 20-24 resellers. The goal of the association is to help the government see the value that the channel brings to a vendor or manufacturer’s overall distribution and go-to-market model.

“Usually when political leaders change, that doesn’t really affect how end-users buy IT products,” he said. “It is important for the government though, to ensure that we continue to have a stable environment so that we as VARs can continue providing our services to our clients.”

Stuart Crawford, vice-president of business development for IT Matters Inc., a Calgary-based solution provider that specializes in computer services and network solutions, said the biggest issue he currently sees out in the Canadian West is the shortage of skilled workers.

“My biggest challenge is with skilled labor and finding the right people to do the job,” Crawford said. “The ongoing challenge is the retention of skilled people. Anyone can be an IT professional because there’s no governing standard which states workers have to pass industry-certified tests. I’d like to see the federal or provincial government implement some sort of certification for IT workers.”

Although it’s too early to even begin to speculate as to which political party will win the most votes, one thing, Crawford says, is certain. “For a leader, at the end of the day, what it’ll really come down to is who can help the economy rebound based on what’s already happened today, and which party will have a plan that they can then successfully execute on.”