They include forging a digital economic strategy, encouraging foreign investment in the telecom industry and improving ICT skills of students,
“If all we hear about is the current hot topics, that should be a signal that the candidates and parties lack vision and will be reactive, not proactive in their policy development,” says telecommunications consultant Mark Goldberg. “That isn’t leadership.”
Here’s what others had to say:
Top on Goldberg’s list is a comprehensive vision for a digital economy.
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), which represents the country’s carriers and telecom equipment makers, wants to know if the leaders are willing to craft a comprehensive long-term plan for releasing wireless spectrum. In an email the association noted the U.S. has set out a plan to allocate 500 MHz of wireless spectrum over the next 10 years, identifying specific bands to be auctioned, and what the auction proceeds will be earmarked to cover.
“Canada’s future competitiveness depends on a digital skills strategy that goes beyond platitudes like ‘IT is cool,’” he wrote in an email “The strategy must be highly targeted, and deal with the real concerns of career choosers. It will be truly groundbreaking if this conversation becomes part of the election campaign.”
While some want to hear how the leaders would build a digital strategy for the country, Duncan Stewart, director of Deloitte Canada Research for technology, media and telecommunications, isn’t one of them.
Promises to bring minimum broadband speeds to every household within a certain time period, as some countries have done, “may be good politics, but it’s not good policy,” he said. Inevitably megabytes become the focus of the debate, not substance.
If fact, he adds, debating the intricacies of a national digital strategy is too complex for a short election campaign.
What Stewart does want parties to detail is what they’d do help Canadian innovators raise early stage money to nurture young companies.
There’s a lack of access to venture or angel funding of between $1 million and $2 million, he said, meaning some promising companies can’t get off the ground. So, for example, he’d like to hear debate on whether Ottawa should adopt British Columbia’s tax credit for angel investors.
In short, “what would a government do to encourage Canadian innovators to leave universities to start up companies, to raise money to become bigger companies and to stay in Canada?”
The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA), an industry group, says politicians should be explaining how they’d impose a more rigorous way to measure the economic success of government programs.
In particular, it says the scientific research and experimental development tax credits under the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) aren’t tied tightly enough to commercial outcomes.
“This has been under review for two Ministers, and we still have no commitment to getting things done,” wrote Barry Gander, CATA’s executive vice-president.
“We need to get the government focused on commercialization rather than research, so business can become as competitive as possible.”
University of Ottawa Internet law professor Michael Geist wants voters to be aggressive. “I’d like to see Canadians vote for the Internet by asking candidates questions about our digital future,” he said. “These include competition around Internet services, privacy, and fair copyright that allows consumers to circumvent digital locks for non-infringing purposes.
(Let us know what you want candidates to address during the campaign by leaving a comment.)