ITAC: Throne speech gives reasons for optimism

Information technology took a back seat to social issues in the federal government’s throne speech, according to the Information Technology Association of Canada.

Governor General Adrienne Clarkson focussed largely on hot-button social

issues of environmental protection and health care in her speech Monday afternoon. Though Clarkson did bring the issues of innovation and technology to the parliamentary table, it was only in the vaguest of terms, said ITAC president Gaylen Duncan.

“”Speeches are always very general,”” he said, “”so you have to go over what was said very carefully. This one contained virtually no reference to stimulating the economy.””

The speech mentioned Canada’s need to be a center for innovation, with the Governor General naming young, IT-savvy Canadians as an untapped resource the country is eager to develop.

“”The goal of the government is nothing less than making Canada a land of ever-widening opportunity,”” Clarkson said. “”We can be a world leader in innovation and learning, a magnet for talent and investment.””

Duncan said he hopes the lack of a detailed innovation strategy in this morning speech is tied to the upcoming November summit on innovation hosted by the federal government and Industry Minister Allan Rock.

“”I’m just wondering if that summit has highjacked the detailed agenda. That is, until they have the summit it’s inappropriate for him to be announcing a detailed innovation package. But that may be the optimistic me,”” Duncan said.

Clarkson said Canada would continue to its commitment to balanced budgets, disciplined spending, and a declining ratio of debt to GDP, but those announcements are nothing new, Duncan said.

“”I did like the reference to ongoing implementation of this commitment on tax treatment though — at least they’re sticking to the old promises too,”” he said.

Duncan’s interest was also peaked by the plan to make immigration more attractive to skilled workers.

“”The government will work to break down the barriers to the recognition of foreign credentials and to fast-track skilled workers with jobs already waiting for them,”” Clarkson said. “”It will also poise Canada as the destination of choice for talented foreign students.””

Duncan said that this declaration, though again general in nature, allows for some cautious optimism that high-tech jobs with a history of labour shortage may get some relief soon.

“”They’ve always just talked about skills generally, so a tool and dye maker ranks with a systems engineer. For the first time I heard words about targeting certain key skills. That’s been a big point for us for several years, so I want to read that sentence really carefully.””

Although the social agenda focus of the speech was a disappointment for Duncan, who would have liked to see a more balanced approach, he said even the general statements heard in this morning’s text can mean good news for the IT industry.

“”I think we’ll find out what’s going to happen between now and February when we start seeing the budget, that’s going to tell us where the dollars are going. We know what their goals are, what they want to accomplish,”” Duncan said. “”What we have to find out now is with all the references to health and the environment and education, what’s the role of technology in those sectors.””

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