Canada’s ICT industry groups give cabinet shuffle two thumbs up

Leaders of Canada’s two government-lobbying ICT associations say they approve of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Federal Cabinet shuffle announced on Tuesday.

With Donald Trump set to take hold of the presidency south of the border, the Liberals made their first Cabinet shake-up since taking office. Perhaps of most relevance to the ICT industry is Chrystia Freeland becoming the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing the outgoing Stephan Dion, and Patty Hadju coming in as the new Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour.

Freeland brings experience and grit to a foreign affairs portfolio at a high-risk time, agree leaders from interest groups, and Hadju should continue down the path laid out by her predecessor in opening up Canada’s doors to global talent that innovative companies need to succeed. It’s what may be needed in response to the more protectionist policies Trump campaigned for in the U.S. Freeland is also retaining her Canada-U.S. relations file, including trade relations.

“Given the new political reality in the U.S. we have to prepare for that and make a shift,” says John Reid, president and CEO of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA). “The rules of the trade game might change and quickly.”

Freeland’s skill set is significant, he adds, pointing to her recent successful trade negotiations in Europe that saw the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement signed after a decade of work. It’s likely she’ll have to work hard to attract American multinationals to invest more into their Canadian operations as Trump speaks out against any sort of off-shoring.

Freeland is in line with free trade and that’s what the ICT industry wants too, says Robert Watson, president and CEO of the Information Association of Canada (ITAC). “Canada is a trading nation,” he says. “Canadians are leaders in the ICT industry so we’re really willing and ready to compete in the world, we just want to have a level playing field to do it.”

Part of Freeland’s appeal comes from her predecessor’s poor fit for a foreign relations role under a Trump presidency, according to Ian Lee, assistant professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business. “We couldn’t have had a worse choice for our foreign affairs minister in Washington, dealing with Trump,” he says.

It’s not that Dion wasn’t experienced or skilled – just that it wasn’t the right experience. Freeland comes to the role having lived in the U.S. for 20 years, Lee says, making her an “inspired choice.” That will give her the right context to deal with the new U.S. administration.

“There are many subtle differences between the two countries you can only understand once you live there.”

As to Minister Hajdu, Watson hopes she will continue the government’s strategy of opening up the doors to global talent. In the Fall, the Liberal government announced a Global Skill Strategy that included a new Global Skills work permit visas that can be granted by the government in as little as 10 days.

Prior to being elected as a Member of Parliament, Hajdu was the executive director of the largest homeless shelter in Northwestern Ontario.

Reid also wants to see Hajdu open up the doors to talent. “We’re pulling out all the stops to get the right talent to Canada,” he says. “You have to build on that talent magnet.”

Aside from attracting the right talent from outside Canada, Reid says there is work to be done in creating better relationships between colleges and universities and helping smaller companies get access to talent.

CATA is also calling on changes to the way Canada handles its innovation tax incentives. The Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, remains unchanged and Reid hopes to see some changes announced with the next federal budget regarding how the department doles out its tax credits.

“Many of these tax dollars being delivered organizationally are not being delivered in a timely way and they’re not being seen as incentives,” he says. “We need a more efficient model.”

Namely, CATA wants to see the creation of an independent agency that would manage how tax breaks are awarded and do it faster than current government bodies.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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