What we saw in the Ontario budget

Today at Queen’s Park in Toronto, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy tabled the Ontario 2021–22 budget.

In response, CCI Executive Director Benjamin Bergen released the following statement on behalf of more than 130 high-growth Canadian technology companies.

What we saw today was very much a pandemic budget focused on supporting the hardest-hit small businesses in our economy. However, the leaders behind Ontario’s high-growth, job creating companies were hoping to see a long term prosperity strategy which lays out a clear roadmap for economic renewal after COVID-19. While we completely agree with Minister Bethlenfalvy when he says that you cannot have a healthy economy without first beating COVID-19, now is the moment when Ontario needs to be proactive about its post-pandemic economy.

In our 2021 budget submission, CCI asked the government to embrace policies which support the generation of more intellectual property (IP) for knowledge-driven businesses, and we called on the province to develop an export strategy for scaling businesses in the province. We also asked the government to support innovative healthtech companies by incorporating their products and services in our provincial healthcare system, as COVID-19 has demonstrated the strategic importance of building domestic capacity in our most critical sectors.

Ontario scale-up technology companies were pleased to see the government reiterate its commitment to procurement reform through Supply Ontario. Strategic procurement has the potential to act as an economic driver for Ontario companies, and help accelerate the growth of businesses, particularly in healthtech and cleantech. By purchasing ‘made-in-Ontario’ digital goods and services, the government acts as a validator for future sales around the world.

Ontario innovators would have liked to see more targeted support directed towards the province’s largest job-creating sectors, including cybersecurity, clean energy, fintech, medical and biosciences, and digital services. We are pleased to see new investments into IP education to further the rollout of Ontario’s robust IP Strategy. However, missing from the budget was a clear strategy to help local companies scale their operations internationally and commercialize their IP abroad. Instead, we saw a renewed focus on attracting large global companies to Ontario’s innovation ecosystem instead of supporting Ontario’s most innovative companies to scale globally.

CCI was encouraged to see various measures in the Ontario budget which embrace digital service delivery and digital ID. We welcome the government’s commitment to provide an additional $2.8 billion for expanded broadband access, because as the government said today, digital services are a necessity, not a luxury. We eagerly await a comprehensive data strategy for Ontario, with sector-specific plans to harness data in ways that respects individual privacy and improves life for all Ontarians. COVID-19 has only accelerated the trend toward digitization in all aspects of our society, and it’s appropriate for Ontario to keep pace with this societal shift.

As the pace of COVID-19 vaccination in Canada increases, now is the moment for governments to be planning for a post-pandemic economic recovery. Scaling Ontario companies are eager to work with the government as Ontario implements plans for returning to economic growth.

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