2011 Ontario Election Overview for Interactive Digital Media Professionals

There is a provincial election in Ontario on October 6th.  As with any election, we are responsible for collectively deciding which party and therefore, which leader, we want managing the provincial affairs for the next 4 years.

Who to vote for is a personal choice. Some individuals are card-carrying party members. For them, that decision is pretty easy.  Others may not be card-carrying, but have strong allegiances to a particular point in the political spectrum and vote for the party closest to their beliefs. Yet more ditch the concept of political parties altogether and vote based on who the best local candidate to represent the riding at the provincial level.

But what if none of that describes you? Is the best thing to just not vote?  Far from it!

The Government of Ontario is responsible for many services to its residents and business owners, ranging from social services (health care, education) to economic services (agriculture, economic development).  Simply not voting means an individual does not care about their tax rate, how much they pay for tuition, their energy bill, if there is a hospital bed for them in an emergency, or if they can buy fresh Ontario produce.

Simply not voting can also affect your job, your career.  One of the platform points for all parties is job creation and retention. While much of the direct discourse is surrounding the manufacturing, farming, and natural resources industries, there are issues at the provincial level of government relevant to the interactive digital media sector:

  • We are entrepreneurs trying to run our businesses.  Are there excessive taxes that hinder growth?
  • We are employers in need of talented people.  Are the universities and colleges feeding talent into the workforce that we can easily employ and integrate into our teams?
  • We are exporters of goods and services.  Are there enough government services to support us in global outreach for partnerships to build new business opportunities?
  • We are creative professionals who want to earn a fair and equitable wage for our work.  Are there enough support systems in place for content creation so we can develop innovative user experiences for global consumption?
  • We are researchers exploring new production processes and developing new software systems, technical tools and applications.  Are research and development programs accessible enough to encourage innovative discovery activities within the province?
  • Is it important to you that the government look to interactive digital media as a replacement industry in regions traditionally economically supported by manufacturing and natural resources? Or should the industry consolidate within a couple of key urban centres?

Every interactive digital media professional, whether entrepreneur, employee, or contractor has asked her/himself at least one of the questions or something similar at some point in the past four years.  Any part of the party platforms relating to these issues is something to be examined.

The Platforms

As far as election campaigns go, this round is pretty much like any other: mud slinging and promises and attack ads. No one party is any more innocent or guilty than the other.  But what if we look past all of that and the commitments to other sectors, what is in each of the party platforms that may be of interest to an interactive digital media professional?

Trying to make sense of the issues and relate them back to the interactive digital media industry can be tricky.  For example, in some sectors like agriculture, government accountability and efficiency is of huge concern due to the regulations that govern their sector.  Interactive Digital Media is mostly centralized under the Ontario Media Development Corporation with the exception of corporate taxes.  To the manufacturing industry, the levying of HST on hydro is a huge hit to corporate profits, whereas most of the interactive digital media industry are small- or medium- enterprises (SMEs) whose hydro bill powers 10-15 computer workstations. So when we hear debates on who has the best government operations plan or HST incentives for business, it can make eligible voters ask “not an issue I face, so why bother?”

Trick is to dig into each of the party’s comprehensive platforms.  After hearing very little during the debate and in the ongoing press materials about the interactive digital media sector, it was interesting to review the platforms of the three established political parties along with one of what many Ontarians consider to be a fourth major political party.

The following campaign points relevant to the interactive digital media sector (costs relevant to studio operations, sectoral incentives, market opportunities, etc) have been compiled directly from the party platforms as presented on their websites.  As much detail was provided as was available within their official platforms documentation.  Parties are presented in alphabetical order as presented on the official Elections Ontario website.

The Green Party of Ontario (Leader: Mike Schreiner)

  • Lower business payroll by raising the exemption level for the Employer Health Tax from $400,000 to $800,000 in payroll, eliminating the EHT for small businesses with payroll less than $800,000
  • Provide incentives in the form of refundable tax credits for business investing in energy efficiency and building retrofits
  • Create $150 million fund for research and development in emerging sectors of the economy such as knowledge-based services
  • Improve high-speed internet access for all areas of Ontario

New Democratic Party of Ontario (Leader: Andrea Horwath, MPP)

  • Ensure corporate tax rate stays below US level
  • Create a 10% tax credit for companies that invest in buildings and equipment in Ontario
  • Create a training tax credit for companies that help their staff upgrade their skills
  • Increase of minimum wage to $11/hour in 2011, and index to the cost of living.

Ontario Liberal Party (Leader: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier)

  • Create incentives to help innovative companies have the capital they need to grow
  • Increase support to help Ontario’s small and medium-sized businesses access new international markets
  • Complete their business tax reduction plan
  • Tax credit for businesses hiring new immigrants
  • Making Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and Eastern Ontario Development Fund permanent, plus creation of a new Southwestern Ontario Economic Development Fund to help those communities attract the jobs of tomorrow

Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (Leader: Tim Hudak, MPP)

  • Choice over mandatory smart meter energy pricing for businesses
  • Reduce base corporate income tax rates to 10% by 2013 (currently 11.5%)
  • Elimination of the Eco Tax off the purchases of everyday items like batteries, iPods, and laptops.

Voting Information

Now you have reviewed the platforms, maybe checked out the CBC Vote Compass, and maybe took a few moments to review the platforms relevant to all Ontarians like health care, energy, and taxes, you are armed to make a decision!

Election day is Thursday, October 6th.  Polls are open 9am to 9pm (EST).

All Canadian citizens residing in Ontario 18 years of age and older are eligible to vote in this provincial election, even if you have not received a voter registration card. For answers to additional questions regarding election and voting mechanics, Elections Ontario has set up http://www.wemakevotineasy.ca

Take charge of your future, the future of your industry, and the future of Ontario, and take 20 minutes out of your Thursday to cast your ballot and have your say.

4 comments:

    1. Thanks Jen! It was not easy since it wasn’t as though the parties had a formal “digital strategy” like the federal parties did. But once compiled, it was interesting to see where everyone stood in their vision of the Ontario economy and where the IDM/ICT sector fit in…

  1. THANK YOU!!!!

    I really enjoyed reading this. I have always voted and encouraged others to vote, even though I temporarily lost my faith in our government. Your blog has given me sooooo much to chew on.
    I appreciate you taking the time to write it. I wish I found before the election.

    Cheers

    Lucy

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