One of the benefits of membership with the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is the opportunity to influence and be heard by government. While we set about this in a variety of ways, we recently opened our boardroom doors to two provincial government ministries in the same week.
At the beginning of the week we invited the President of the Treasury Board and Pickering-Uxbridge MPP Peter Bethlenfalvy to talk about and receive feedback on the government’s Smart Initiatives. And to cap off the week, employees of the Ministry of Consumer and Government Services hosted a consultation on the development of an Ontario Data Strategy.
As Minister Bethlenfalvy explained to a group of about a dozen members, the Smart Initiatives program has several goals, including to:
To accomplish this, the government’s first goal is to work toward digitizing the top 10 transactions by Ontarians and businesses.
Among the issues brought forward were to revisit the vendor of record process to ensure smaller business entities continue to have opportunities to complete contracts for government and to reduce the red tape on smaller projects so that they can be completed quicker. The thought was that many building projects
for government are undertaken so that government can offer services out of these buildings and so taking a decade to build these locations isn’t helping Ontarians get the services they require.
There were questions around legal aid and the ability to access it when needed. The Minister commented that the goal is not to turn people away.
On the post-secondary file, there was information about how institutions will now be funded on a performance and outcomes-based model.
The Minister also heard how Alberta is about a decade ahead of Ontario when it comes to
transactions around death certificates.
There were questions about the Eastern Ontario Development Fund which had funding available to businesses. The latest iteration of the program is the “Regional Development Program, which will invest more than $100 million over four years while taking a new approach to supporting business growth in eastern and southwestern Ontario communities."
"Under the program, businesses can get financial support through the Eastern Ontario Development Fund (EODF) and the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund (SWODF) and access to a range of complementary services and supports. As well, there is a clear 60-business day service commitment for when an applicant is notified of a funding decision, and on eligibility to receive additional complementary supports and services, so that applicants can plan their investments and know when to expect a decision.”
There was good commentary on transfer agreements and encouragement from members to create longer term agreements such as 3 years versus the current 1-year term. There was also encouragement to consider geography of some groups as digital access can be problematic.
On the issue of broadband, the government was commended for dedication to more digitization
but asked about the pace of broadband infrastructure to support that goal. The Minister referred to the Ministry of Infrastructure which has provincially dedicated about $300 million for this area. There was also an announcement earlier this spring to support the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN)Cell Gap project which will help bring service to areas that currently do not have service.
There was a discussion around skilled trades and newcomers to Canada and how increasing the workforce will take a concerted effort by all involved. There was great interest from members around P3 (public private partnerships) opportunities when the conditions make sense along with more dedication to messages around the importance of financial literacy.
You can view the Minister’s entire opening remarks through our YouTube channel - www.youtube.com/PeterboroughChamber
For more information or to provide feedback on the Smart Initiatives connect with Ontario.ca/smart
The second roundtable was a public consultation on the ON Data Strategy. During the two- hour period, the group of about 30 answered four questions around data collection and business needs around data. Some of the topics were around increasing data literacy for employees in the private and |public sectors, building a talent pipeline that can easily translate data, and building a query dashboard that allows for businesses and the public to access open data sets.
There was discussion around privacy and security, how to use data to make life easier for Ontarians and ensuring that the infrastructure system exists in Ontario to be able to use data effectively for taxpayers and
Right now, legislation is being developed for a framework on how to collect data, what data should always be accessible and how to compile and communicate it so that it is easy to apply.
There is still time to contribute to the conversation through the government website engage.ontario.ca