Scant weeks after the release of a sweeping review of Ontario’s expenditures, one that calls for a “digital first” revision of the province’s spending and service delivery, Peter Bethlenfalvy paid his first visit to the province’s digital epicentre since his appointment last spring as President of the Treasury Board Secretariat.
“I’m encouraged,” Bethlenfalvy, MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge, told reporters Thursday after a one-hour tour of Communitech and Velocity.
“What you see today is the talent and the energy and the collaboration necessary to succeed in a global market. We’re not an island here in Ontario and Canada.
“These are the products and services being developed with a customer focus and embracing the strengths of the economy here in Waterloo and Kitchener and beyond.
“I’m very encouraged and impressed.”
The Treasury Board Secretariat is charged with managing the fiscal plan of the government. It controls all government spending and oversees the delivery of provincial services. Bethlenfalvy, its president, was elected along with the Doug Ford-led Tory government in last June’s provincial election. The post of President of the Treasury Board Secretariat is ministerial level.
Bethlenfalvy toured the Lang Tannery building and met CEOs of several startups, including: Cole Jones, CEO of Local Line, an e-commerce platform for food suppliers; Joseph Fung, CEO of Kiite, which uses AI to power company sales; and Corry Flatt; CEO of Bonfire, which modernizes the procurement process for government agencies.
Communitech also happens to be home to the Ontario Digital Service Lab, which opened in August of 2017 and is charged with transforming the way the provincial government delivers services to the people of Ontario. With that in mind, and with the provincially commissioned “digital first” review still fresh in everyone’s memory, Bethlenfalvy had his first in-person look at the lab.
“Modernization, a big part of it, is digitization,” Bethlenfalvy said shortly after a tour of the lab. He was asked specifically about the implications of the recent Ontario review, which was commissioned by the Ford government and delivered three weeks ago by accounting firm EY Canada.
“[Digitization] was one of the first things in the EY report. We’ve seen across the globe: Governments apply services on a digital basis to make the customer experience often better at a lower price point. You want the customer experience to be higher.
“These are the people developing products and services that will enable that. So I’m very encouraged by everything I’ve seen today.”
Michael Maddock, Assistant Deputy Minister with the Ontario Digital Service, was also on hand for the visit. He said the Ontario lab’s mandate touches “on about 80 per cent” of the EY report.
“We’re looking at not only the user experience lab here at Communitech, putting citizens at the centre of what we build, but we’re also working on building in some lean capacity, procurement reform, digital identity, [and] working with key ministries like the Ministry of Health, getting health information to citizens.
“Ultimately, in the ministry we’re in, it also has all of the access to financial and HR information, which was a big piece of the EY report about transparency about spend.”
Bethlenfalvy said the activities of the lab play to the direction that the province’s government needs to head.
“I’ve worked with our caucus colleagues,” said Bethlenfalvy. “We spent a session in caucus going through the report. It’s a big blueprint. It’s a framework to drive government to modernize. The thing we heard the most: ‘Get on with it.”
“This,” he said, referring to the lab, “fits hand in glove.”