The federal government will continue consolidating its IT and back office systems, make more use of videoconferencing and try to reduce the amount of software and hardware licencing fees its pays in its efforts to slash Ottawa’s spending over the next five years.
These are some of the nuggets found in the budget released Thursday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, which also said also said the Conservative government will spend $1 billion on support of science and technology, much of which will go to helping start up companies through supporting venture capital.
It also includes $40 million over two years to support CANARIE’s operation of Canada’s ultra-high speed research network.
The government plans to chop 12,000 full-time jobs plus eliminate another 7,000 through attrition. It doesn’t say how many of those are IT-related.
The budget has nothing to say about the long-promised national digital economy strategy, or mention that money is being set aside for rural broadband stimulus.
“It doesn’t have the same ‘outsource everything element’ to it,” that some were expecting, observed Alison Brooks, public sector research analyst at IDC Canada. But, she added, the merging of a number of IT departments into Shared Services Canada last August probably did more to trim certain departmental spending than the budget.
Shared Services Canada, one of the biggest IT centres in the government, has consolidated IT infrastructures of a number of departments. Its goal is to deliver email, data centre and network services to 43 federal organizations.
To make sure its staffers get the message, the budget says the government will introduce a bill stating Shared Services Canada’s job is to “deliver value for money for Canadian taxpayers.”
Looking at the measures to encourage employment growth nationally, Linda Leonard, senior vice-president of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), said the organization approves the budget’s thrust to create knowledge-based jobs. “There’s a really strong innovation flavour to this that our industry welcomes.”
She is also glad to see Ottawa is making permanent the Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program, which connects small and mid-sized innovative companies to federal departments.
However, she isn’t sure yet about the impact of changes to the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program. The tax credit rate will drop to 15 from 20 per cent and capital expenditures will no longer qualify.
The removal of capital expenditures may have an impact on large R&D spenders, she said, who support the government’s vision of a “more innovating nation.”