What Innovators will be looking for in Ontario’s 2021 Budget
By Alanna Sokic
Manager of Government Affairs ~ Ontario
It’s been an exciting couple of months since I started at CCI — and what a time to lead the organization’s Ontario practice.
We’re just starting to pull ourselves out of the pandemic mindset; this crisis isn’t over yet, but we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And already, policymakers need to be planning for it.
When I started at CCI in February, one of my first priorities was to work with our members to craft our 2021 Ontario Pre-Budget Submission. You can read the full document here. If you’re interested in how provincial governments can prepare for the post-pandemic economic recovery, I think there are a lot of valuable ideas in there.
For right now, though, I want to highlight one big idea for how the Ontario government can help grow the economy — by making government procurement work better and smarter.
If you talk to any business owner, they’ll tell you that a purchase order from the government is worth more to their business than an economic development grant. The contract as a supplier acts as a validator and helps them scale-up operations to sell more to other large enterprises and governments.
This is why CCI was so excited by the announcement in last year’s budget that the government is creating Supply Ontario, with the aim of modernizing procurement processes. This new centralized agency will, “…drive innovation of emerging technologies, connecting small businesses and entrepreneurs to government and its customers,” according to the budget document.
This is exactly the approach that CCI has been calling on government to adopt for years. If the province gets this right, it could be a huge benefit to the Ontario economy.
To be clear, we don’t want to see Ontario go the route President Joe Biden has taken in the U.S., with his misguided ‘Buy American’ policy. Though Biden recognizes the seismic buying power of the American government, he’s going down a protectionist path that is better avoided.
Instead, Ontario should aim to make its procurement process fair, transparent, and easy to navigate. The goal of this transformation would be to provide domestic SMEs the opportunity to submit bids and win contracts on a level playing field.
On behalf of CCI’s members, I’m looking forward to deepening our engagement on this issue. In late February, Frank Rochon was named as the CEO of the new Supply Ontario agency, and I’m hoping he’ll consider the perspective of innovative Ontario companies as he begins his stewardship of this new agency.
The government can also use strategic procurement to bolster domestic capacity in important sectors of the economy. For example, we all remember the desperate scramble to secure PPE and ventilators this time last year. Ontario should identify strategic areas like medical equipment, but we should also take a broader look at using government purchasing to build important industries. Ontario has quite a few promising medical technology companies with products and services which can improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.
That’s why we also asked the government to develop a Made-In-Ontario health technology strategy, which effectively harnesses the ingenuity of domestic innovators. For more details about what a health tech strategy should look like, you can read the full section in our budget submission.
Like I remarked at the top, these are exciting times. The 2021 Ontario budget will be an important step toward laying the groundwork for our economic recovery, as vaccine deliveries ramp up and we push past the worst of COVID-19.
Setting the stage for an innovative and prosperous recovery is vitally important, and CCI’s member companies are ready to lead the way. We’re eager to see what Premier Ford and Minister Bethlenfalvy deliver for scaling technology companies to set us up for success.