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How the Government of Ontario is Proposing to Procure IT Resources

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

How the Government of Ontario is Proposing to Procure IT ResourcesIn what was considered a stunning development to Industry, the Ontario Government announced its intent to make drastic changes to the way it procures IT Resources going forward once it’s current (and long standing) Vendor of Record (VOR) method expires early this Fall.

The Vendor of Record is an inclusive list of approved suppliers who provide the Ontario Government resources under the Task Based I&IT Consulting Services VOR. Last Spring, the Government asked the Vendor Community for input in how best to structure its next generation of IT Consulting Services VOR. The questions in the survey and the feedback compiled by large Industry Associations like the NACCB in no way resemble the drastic proposed changes sent out in late May in an RFB. In fact, it is effectively counter to public sector procurement objectives and the spirit on which that procurement is normally based — part of which is to support and encourage thriving Canadian small and medium size businesses.

The new VOR, by virtue of its massive qualifying mandatory criteria, will see¬† likely over 300 of the current 317 vendors not qualify, as the intended vendor list will only be 10 going forward. The qualification criteria would suggest the 10 vendors can only be very large, likely multinational/foreign companies, of which many do not compete or provide for in a Task-Based resourcing environment. As such it’s expected few Canadian-based companies could qualify.

It remains a mystery to what constituency this serves in Ontario and is a perplexing direction from the Ontario Government for many reasons, here are just a few :

  • The new VOR will eliminate over 300 vendors, many of whom are thriving Canadian businesses. It may effectively kill them along with the well-paying jobs they provide in an economy where Canadian SMEs, as the government itself says, are “the backbone of the economy “.
  • These same businesses are effective components of the thriving Knowledge Economy and instrumental in the very critical Innovation Economy of tomorrow. This VOR will eliminate the innovation these small and medium sized IT companies provide.
  • Perhaps most perplexing is the idea that the Government hopes to reduce costs through a drastically pared down vendor list. As noted, the resulting winning bidders are very likely to be large, multinational technology companies who will be asked to operate in a Task-Based environment while having much higher overhead and costs. They do not operate on the lower margins of smaller, nimble companies in an open and competitive bidding process, so it is difficult to see how costs will be reduced

Given there has been a groundswell of opposition in Ontario to this initiative for these and many other reasons, we can only hope the feedback sought in this process is being heard and considered.

Are “Good Politics, Not Good Policy” Driving Ontario’s Labour Laws?

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Ontario’s “Changing Workplace Review” is Complete — Here’s How It Could Affect Independent Contractors and Temporary Workers

Ontario FlagThe long awaited Changing Workplaces Review, initiated by the Ontario Government over two years ago to review the employment Standards Act, has unveiled its recommendations and Ontario business are braced for the government to adopt changes that many are concerned are based on “good politics, not good policy “.

The expected changes to Ontario’s Labour laws have the potential to be sweeping, wide in scope with 173 recommendations that include everything from minimum sick days, increased annual paid vacation, and workplace unionization. Although there were a number of presentations that proposed potential restrictions around the use of independent contractors, the final recommendations around contract labour were wisely few. Additionally, although not part of the changing Workplace Review, it’s expected the government will piggy back an increase to Ontario’s minimum wage on the proposed legislative changes adopted from the Review either this June before break or this September.

Many employer organizations worked with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to ensure that there was a focus on the potential economic impact on these policy changes proposed and, although we are not sure what the Government will adopt, there is still uncertainty as to the veracity and thoroughness of what the real effect on Ontario’s economy will be.

We can recall several presentations to the Special Advisers that were focused on the use and definition of temporary labour; however, there was a definite slant towards an interpretation that temporary workers were deemed precarious or at risk workers and were in need of additional legislative protections. Central to this argument were some highly visible cases of situations involving temp workers in general staffing environments being wrongly taken advantage of. Athough a very tiny portion of a large and thriving industry we do have appropriate legislative corrective measures that should be enforced to combat this potential.

To combine the general staffing world with professional or knowledge workers was a dot that the Special Advisers were wisely never able to connect. Many in the Knowledge Worker world make a well thought out career choice to contract and there are many advantages associated with contracting in a necessary and thriving industry. Some of the measures presented and promoted in the 2 year review included limiting contracts to a maximum of 6 months in length, a % limit on the use of contingent labour, and a reverse onus on employee status such that all contract workers were deemed employees unless otherwise proven. These were all solutions for a problem that did not exist. It is very much welcome news that the Special Advisers recognized this and did not move forward with these restrictions.

We do know that legislative attempts making it harder for employers to access workers and workforce options are not a route to increased prosperity or productivity. We have certainly seen in both the UK and undoubtedly Southern Europe (while most of Northern Europe does the opposite and is in much better economic shape) where restrictions in flexibility in labour markets hurts one very important stakeholder: workers.

In a dynamic and highly competitive global market the ability to change, adapt and be flexible are all key components of a growing and prosperous economy. As the world transitions in to a new way of working, efforts to reverse that through policies deemed to appease in an election atmosphere for a tired government will no doubt back fire by making it more difficult for employers to access workers. Organizations will adjust to restrictions by ultimately hiring fewer, automating more or offshoring or expanding in other more competitive markets. The government really needs to understand the economic impact that potential job killing measures may have.

While we don’t know which of the measures will be adopted and ultimately put forward as legislation and no doubt campaign narratives, we do know that without a thorough understanding of labour market competitiveness we, are doomed to repeat mistakes we can’t afford in Ontario. One need look no further than the Governments “fix ” in Energy of the 2000’s and the upside down and and befuddled energy market and extreme costs Ontarioans business and personal are stuck with today.