IT industry revises agenda for Liberal Ontario

Members of the IT industry say they are going to make the most of the next six months as a transition of power takes place within the Ontario government to secure new business and increased support from the province.

Dalton McGuinty became Ontario’s 24th premier Thursday night after the Liberal

Party ended eight years of Progressive Conservative government, capturing 72 seats and 46 per cent of the popular vote.

The landslide opens up a major opportunity for the technology sector, said John Reid, president of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA). Although CATA is a national group, more than half of its members are based in Ontario, and late last month the association published an election brief that outlined recommendations for various candidates to build into their platforms. These included a reduction in personal taxes for middle-income Ontarians, the elimination of the corporate capital tax and a revamp of procurement policy, among others.

According to Reid, the Liberal victory represents a clean slate for CATA and its members to press some of those issues.

“”Every time you have a government changeover, you can also refresh the public policy agenda,”” he said. “”The fact that Dalton McGuinty is coming in with a new team, it really gives us a nice window, as is the case with Paul Martin, to help reshape some of the public policies that affect investment.””

In an interview with the day after the election was called, ITAC Ontario president Bob Horwood downplayed the impact of any transition.

“”The government may change, the public service doesn’t,”” he said. “”It’s still the people in the public service who are neutral.””

Reid, however, said McGuinty’s young team understands the high-tech industry, adding that strong majority governments are conducive to change.

“”You create a platform which puts you in power, and then you understand the breadth of the agenda in managing Ontario’s economy, and you form those relationships with those people that are going to create the jobs and the productivity,”” he said. “”We’re a pretty significant part of the equation.””

Recently senior members within Ontario’s CIO cluster have questioned the need to work with outside consultants on various IT projects. At the recent Showcase Ontario conference, for example, Ministry of Transportation Cluster CIO Dave Nicholl said the province would likely start reducing its reliance on external expertise. On Friday, however, he refused to speculate on any change in strategy once the Liberals take over Queen’s Park. “”It’s really too early to say,”” he said.

David Engler, president of LightGov, isn’t worried. LightGov is a small consulting shop based in Boardman, Ohio, which helped form a public-private partnership with Teranet, a land registry system that until recently was partly owned by Ontario.

“”It’s going to be driven by finances more than politics,”” Engler said. “”It’s so costly to try to reduplicate internally the expertise in the IT field as opposed to creating public/private partnerships to accomplish your goals. I think that generally the trend’s going to be to identify consultants and IT firms that can provide these services.””

In the short term, at least, the Liberals are unlikely to try and reinvent the wheel if consultants can save money, Reid added.

“”The model now, whether you’re in the government or the private sector, is to outsource,”” he said. “”They have to manage within a budget, but I don’t think they’re going to change their business model.””


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