What the Ontario Spring Legislative Session Meant for Innovators

June 14, 2024

By Skaidra Puodžiūnas
CCI Director of Ontario Affairs

In the halls and backrooms of Queen's Park, political watchers are speculating: Is an early election on the horizon?

Premier Doug Ford recently unveiled a freshly shuffled cabinet, and the Progressive Conservatives have easily won two by elections. Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie trails in the polls but is gaining popularity.

While MPPs are back in their ridings for the summer recess, expected to return to the legislature on October 21, 2024, the early election buzz could make for an intriguing campaign-focused summer and fall.

As we look ahead to the fall legislative session or evaluate the government's performance in a potential fall election campaign, here’s what the Ford government has been doing on the innovation front during the spring legislative session:

Ontario's Cyber, Data, Privacy and AI Bill

Last month, the government introduced the Strengthening Cyber Security and Building Trust in the Public Sector Act, 2024, aiming to reform how public sector entities use and store data. We publicly applauded this step, met with officials at the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery, and drafted a policy submission for the consultation period on the bill.

A key recommendation we’re pushing for is the use of standards over more rigid forms of regulation. As my colleague Laurent highlighted in a Mooseworks blog post, embracing standards can free up government capacity for important priorities, provide regulatory certainty, and foster interoperable solutions. We are advocating for the Ontario Government to include language in the bill granting ministerial authority to recognize standards as a pathway for regulatory innovation.

Procurement State of Play in Ontario

On April 1, new regulation under the Building Ontario Businesses Initiative Act, 2022 (BOBIA), came into effect, requiring Ontario's public sector—including hospitals, schools, colleges, and universities—to preference Ontario businesses in procurements for goods and services. While this currently applies to relatively low-dollar procurements, we support this narrative and aim to see it extend into the innovation procurement space.

The recent cabinet shuffle has introduced a new minister responsible for government procurement and Supply Ontario. Todd McCarthy becomes the Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery and Procurement. Our ongoing engagement with Supply Ontario and our focus on procurement reform in 2024 make this a positive development. Additionally, bringing the IT infrastructure of the Ontario Public Service (Gov Tech ON) under the same ministry as Supply Ontario should lead to a more integrated approach to innovation procurement. Both divisions now "brief up" to the same Deputy Minister, Renu Kulendran. One would hope this means a less siloed approach. Fingers crossed!

Health Technology Accelerator Fund

Budget 2024 prioritized health care, infrastructure, and municipal spending, with a notable $12 million allocated to the Health Technology Accelerator Fund. This fund is designed to help health care providers adopt innovative tools and services, including those from Ontario companies. We are optimistic that this fund will lead to high-impact innovations breaking free from endless pilot programs and set a precedent for funding innovation across various industries. More updates are expected in the fall.

CCI will continue to advocate for homegrown innovators through these initiatives and beyond.

To learn more about CCI's work in Ontario, get in touch with Skaidra Puodziunas at spuodziunas@canadianinnovators.org.

About the Council of Canadian Innovators

The Council of Canadian Innovators is a national member-based organization reshaping how governments across Canada think about innovation policy, and supporting homegrown scale-ups to drive prosperity. Established in 2015, CCI represents and works with over 150 of Canada’s fastest-growing technology companies. Our members are the CEOs, founders, and top senior executives behind some of Canada’s most successful ‘scale-up’ companies. All our members are job and wealth creators, investors, philanthropists, and experts in their fields of health tech, cleantech, fintech, cybersecurity, AI and digital transformation. Companies in our portfolio are market leaders in their verticals, commercialize their technologies in over 190 countries, and generate between $10M-$750M in annual recurring revenue. We advocate on their behalf for government strategies that increase their access to skilled talent, strategic capital, and new customers, as well as expanded freedom to operate for their global pursuits of scale.

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