TORONTO — The president of Microsoft Canada has issued a strong challenge to all business leaders in Canada: Become evangelists for a better, more informed and positive attitude towards this country, its economy and its people.


a speech delivered Monday afternoon to the Canadian Club at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Clegg said it’s “the psychology of business people and the marketplace that continue to be the roadblocks to real recovery.”

Rather than do the soft-sell of Microsoft products and vision, Clegg said he was there to talk about something of much wider importance, and it’s about restoring business confidence in Canada.

“This may sound self-serving, but it’s not,” he said, if only because “every single person in this room is in the technology business. Whether you work for a technology company or a small or large business, technology is absolutely critical to your future success.”

The good news is that the Canadian economy has been outperforming the U.S. and that Canada will emerge from this downtown first, he said.

“Many Canadians prefer to moan and groan about our economy, to believe the old paradigm that we are hewers of wood, and drawers of water. To believe that we lag — and will always lag — behind the United States.”

Clegg also pointed to a number of other positive indicators, from huge reductions in government debt, to increasing diversification of the Canadian economy, to the fact that Canada is the most-connected country in the world “with a level of high-speed access twice that of the U.S.”

“I’m here to challenge you not to fall prey to the nay-sayers. As Canadians we often find humility more comfortable than shameless self-promotion — but I urge you to take our positive indicators to heart — as leaders — we absolutely have to become the nation’s champions.

“As business leaders, we should not be part of the problem — putting off investment in technology, sacrificing our talent, putting off new product development, playing it safe while the world readjusts.”

In an interview immediately after the speech, Clegg did acknowledge an “over-capacity” problem at some Canadian organizations, and that even Microsoft has inventory stuck in parts of the channel.

“At the same time, there is room for a good investment idea,” he says, and many large Canadian corporations continue to have billion-dollar budgets for IT.

What CIOs lack, however, is the ammunition to make additional investments in IT, and the industry needs to ask: “Have we given them the solid business case?”

Gaylen Duncan, president of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) praised Clegg’s speech. “He said it all and more.”

Duncan acknowledged that the Canadian IT industry will grow by only slightly more than three per cent but “that’s not bad,” considering the economy is expected to only grow by 1.25 per cent, he said.

Duncan said there is still room for optimism. “Going into the Christmas break, it was not a good feeling. But since Jan. 2, a number of CEOs (of Canada’s IT firms) have said it’s not as bad as they first thought…profits are higher and they are getting new orders.”

But “the question you really have to ask,” he said, is: “Is it sustainable?”

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