The issues were on the table long before Ontario Premier Ernie Eves called an election on Tuesday: an end to teacher strikes, improved health care, tax cuts.
While the candidates begin to debate potential policy between now and the Oct. 2 vote date, the technology industry will be one of
many sectors pushing for some changes of their own. With that in mind, ITBusiness.ca spoke to Bob Horwood, president of ITAC Ontario, to see how he would set the agenda.
ITBusiness.ca: ITAC Ontario has been an outspoken critic of Ontario’s retail sales tax as it applies to software and services. To what extent could that be addressed during or following the election?
Bob Horwood: We’ve had many discussions with Ministry of Finance people and they’re attempting to simplify the regulations. We perceived that there are still difficulties with that and they’re particularly causing problems with the smaller companies. It’s still up in the air, and to resolve it properly requires some policy changes, and the Ministry of Finance staff, of course, are not empowered to change policy. I’m hoping we may get a fresh start.
ITB: How will the IT industry get the various parties’ attention when there are so many other issues, like education and health care, which are so close to voters’ hearts?
BH: There’s no question that we as the industry believe that in health, information technology can play a major role in providing better health care, better service at a more affordable cost. That’s clearly a place where IT is important. In dealing with the provincial government, there continue to be problems in negotiating contracts where there are some inconsistencies between various departments and the policies of Management Board. We hope somewhere along the line those inconsistencies will be resolved, and it’s our hope that the contractual practices of the government will ultimately parallel what is known as common commercial practice.
ITB: Can you give an example?
BR: The difficulty is that not all of the departments go through Management Board’s procurement offices, so there end up being inconsistencies. Some departments will choose not to follow the policies that that management board has decided upon. That leaves that industry somewhat confused.
ITB: You’re obviously dealing with government all the time, but during the election will there be a formal process through which you will act as the industry’s advocate?
BH: Obviously while the government may change, the public service doesn’t. It’s still the people in the public service who are neutral. We think that it’s important that all of the candidates have a strong view of where technology belongs in the economy of the province.
ITB: If you were speaking to Ernie Eves, Dalton McGuinty or Howard Hampton, how would you articulate that importance?
BH: The information economy industry in Ontario is the province’s third-largest employer, after food and automotive. The health of the information technology industry is crucial to the well-being of Ontario.