Legislative Lookahead: What we’re watching at Queen’s Park this fall
By Alanna Sokic, CCI Manager of Government Affairs in Ontario
A longer than expected break notwithstanding, the Ontario legislature is due back next week for a jam-packed fall session. The legislature has been adjourned since June 14, with a Cabinet shuffle and federal election occupying the hearts and minds of politically attuned Ontarians in the months since.
On the innovation front, the fall session represents a prime opportunity to execute upon the Spring’s ambitious Digital and Data Strategy. With the appointment of Ontario’s first-ever Associate Minister of Digital Government, Kaleed Rasheed, the province seems poised to make progress on many of its policy proposals related to digitization. Last month, when CCI hosted a conversation with the Associate Minister, he noted, “Now is a great time for industry and the tech sector to come work with us.” With this in mind, CCI expects an enthusiastic pace of engagement with key government stakeholders.
This will be the last legislative session before budget season in early 2022, followed by the general election in June. The new session must be opened with a Speech from the Throne, written by Cabinet and read by the Lieutenant Governor, that will outline the government’s legislative priorities.
This considered, the four things I’ll be watching for come October 4 are: privacy regulation, labour panel recommendations, the development of a provincial data authority, and the fall economic statement.
Earlier in the summer, the Government of Ontario unveiled a white paper entitled ‘Modernizing Privacy in Ontario’ aimed at addressing gaps within the federal government’s Bill C-11. You can see CCI’s response to this white paper here. The overarching goal of this white paper is to set guiding principles for new provincial privacy legislation. This work will be led by newly minted Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Ross Romano.
For our members who operate globally, piecemeal regulation increases their costs of doing business. To this point, CCI will be watching closely for the interoperability of this legislation — or rather, its harmonization with other provincial, national, and international privacy frameworks.
Labour Panel Recommendations
Over the summer, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton convened the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee with the aim of addressing changes to the labour market brought on and/or accelerated by COVID-19. The Committee sought counsel from key stakeholders to inform its eventual report to the Minister, which will contain concrete recommendations and policy levers the Minister may lean upon in approaching the future of work in Ontario. As talent remains the primary concern from our members, CCI made sure to participate in two feedback sessions with Committee members. CCI brought forward the importance of upskilling and reskilling programs (both their availability and assistance navigating them), concerns over ‘nearshoring,’ and back-to-office guidance. CCI looks forward to reading the Committee’s recommendations and will continue advocating for the needs of the domestic tech ecosystem as it pertains to talent.
Throughout the month of August, the Government of Ontario consulted on the establishment of a provincial Data Authority to manage and oversee the use of publicly held data sets. CCI made sure to engage on multiple fronts — in a targeted consultation session with like-minded stakeholders, submitting a long-form written submission, and tuning into the Ontario Digital Service’s Town Hall on the subject. Broadly speaking, CCI supports the establishment of a public utility to manage the use of data to help bolster the economy and spur innovation. We look forward to supporting Special Advisor Andy Best’s continued work and seeing through the Authority’s development to completion.
Fall Economic Statement
Over recent years, the fall fiscal update has held greater sway with the political class, increasingly serving as a platform for key policy commitments typically reserved for the Budget. With the provincial election happening in June 2022, this year’s fall fiscal update should include some campaign-level commitments. We are expecting some overlap between the fall fiscal update and the Speech from the Throne, given the latter will likely inform the contents of the former. CCI will be looking for fiscal commitments needed to execute the province’s innovation agenda — specifically, what the province plans to allocate to run the Data Authority or how much it will spend on privacy enforcement.
Much is happening in the ‘Trillium Province.’ With CCI’s boots on the ground in Ontario, and expanded presence in additional provincial jurisdictions, we stand ready to advocate more fulsomely for increased access to talent, capital, customers, and establishment of marketplace frameworks to the benefit of our members and the ecosystem. As the fall political agenda unfolds, CCI will be sure to provide updates and continue to engage our members to ensure we are accurately representing their needs vis-à-vis the Ford government.
If you’re interested in CCI’s advocacy work in Ontario on behalf of scale-up companies in the innovation economy, contact Alanna Sokic at email@example.com