On Thursday, October 20th, TechYukon submitted a set of questions to the three parties running a full slate of candidates in the current territorial election, asking for their ideas on a number of areas the society thinks are of importance to the growth of the technology sector, and the enhancement of its contribution to the local economy.
The questions were arranged under five main headings:
- Tech Hubs/Accelerators for Technology Businesses
- Access to Capital, and Tax Incentives
- Local Support for Technology Industry
- Access to Training and Education
- Internet Connectivity
By Tuesday, October 25, we received responses from all three parties, literally within an hour of each other. We very much appreciate their time, and their speedy replies.
The questionnaire can be found here.
The Yukon Party e-mail response can be found here.
The New Democratic Party e-mail response can be found here.
The Liberal party e-mall response can be found here.
In summary, some points of interest to TechYukon arising from this questionnaire were:
- All three parties expressed interest in establishing a business accelerator program in Yukon. The Yukon and Liberal parties expressed direct commitment to such a program, while the NDP expressed its willingness to consider it. We see this as a very hopeful level of agreement.
- Each party had a different approach to the access to capital and tax incentive questions. The Yukon party favored direct incentives to companies or individuals creating new products; the NDP spoke of revising existing government programs and coordinating with First Nations development corporations to increase access to capital; the Liberal party spoke of increasing the Yukon small business tax credit, and re-tooling it to fit current business realities. None of them mentioned a venture capital investment fund to support innovation and product development, such was recently established in British Columbia, which is an initiative we believe is worth exploring.
- All of the parties expressed support for reviewing the Yukon government’s supply chain management policies and processes, to make sure they met government needs, while also maximizing local purchase of goods and services wherever possible. This again, is an important level of agreement.
- In addition, both the Yukon and Liberal parties expressly committed to maintaining the current $9.5 million IT spending envelope at its current level for the foreseeable future. The parties’ universal commitment to maximizing local purchase of goods and services is another good news story for the industry.
- On the subject of access to technology-related training and education, there was again universal support for the idea of including computer programming and computer literacy training in the Yukon school curriculum.
- In the area of job training and student mentoring, the NDP and Liberal parties spoke of working with TechYukon to make sure sufficient resources were made available in the territory’s STEP student training program to assist in training of Yukon students in tech-related fields. The Yukon Party spoke of ensuring relevant training and programs are available at Yukon College. While we would welcome the development of more local programming in the technology area at Yukon College, no such programs are available at present. We also believe that resources additional to STEP funding are needed to ensure we develop and retain local technology talent, and will be approaching the government of the day with suggestions for more enhanced training and mentoring.
- In the area of Internet Connectivity, all three parties expressed a desire to move quickly to establish an alternate fiber optic connection to the internet. The Yukon Party supports a northern line to the NWT, in partnership with Northwestel, the Federal government, and the government of the Northwest Territories. The NDP seeks a competitive process, without stipulating which route to take; and the Liberal Party favors a Skagway alternative line, with partnerships with the Federal government, and a tender process for the work. The society believes that a case can be made for either process and direction, but a decision must be made in this matter soonest. We were also pleased to see that all three parties support the notion of involving local technology companies as much as possible in the build-out of this new connection.
- A final question about assuring affordable high speed internet access to companies to help them develop and support their products went largely unanswered. This is probably because we did not frame it with sufficient clarity. TechYukon is envisioning specially developed and priced internet access for technology development hotspots like the Yukon Research Centre, Yukonstruct, Co-space, and perhaps a TechYukon technology cluster. This would be along the lines of the kind of bandwidth and much-reduced pricing available to business accelerators like BCTech and VIATEC in British Columbia. The society will continue to investigate the viability of this kind of access in future.