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‘I think the economy is adjusting,’ said finance minister during NORCAT visit

Rod Phillips hosting series of consultations leading up to November budget

With a provincial budget coming in November, Finance Minister Rod Phillips is touring Ontario in a series of consultations with businesses and individuals about what people want to see in it.

During his stop in Sudbury on Sept 18, Phillips visited NORCAT to see some of the programs supported by Digital Main Street, a program and service that helps businesses achieve digital transformation. In Sudbury, NORCAT administers the program in partnership with the Ontario government.

“It’s important to see how the entrepreneurs who benefit from the program are working,” said Phillips during his tour. 

He also had plans to visit mining supply businesses in the area, saying the province has seen the opening of more new mines in the last two years than it has seen in the last decade, such as IAMGOLD’s Côté Gold Mine in Gogama, which will add billions of dollars to the economy.

He was also conducting roundtable consultations in person and via teleconference, he said. 

“COVID-19 has made us adjust our approach to these consultations,” Phillips said.

Phillips is chair of the Ontario Jobs and Recovery committee. He said much has been done to make sure the province has its finger on the pulse, “so we can make the right moves as we go along.”

“We saw 143,000 jobs come back last month. That’s very positive, but we are in a challenging place,” Phillips said.

“We’ve seen the effect COVID-19 has had on small businesses, and we missed a very important tourism season.

"On the other hand, some businesses are rebounding very well, such as the real estate sector, the financial sector, and construction. I think the economy is adjusting, but we need to make sure we’re sensitive to the people who are being put at risk by this pandemic.

“We’ll get through this, but it’s certainly the most challenging economy of my lifetime.”

NORCAT CEO Don Duval said his team was excited to introduce Phillips to some of the beneficiaries of the Digital Main Street program.

“That program is hugely important to our local brick and mortar businesses, but also across the province, and in this new reality, many of these businesses need to recognize that to compete not only regionally, but globally, especially given the growth of Amazons and other entities, they have to have a well-thought-out and sophisticated digital strategy,” Duval said.  

Duval also introduced the minister to the other aspect of NORCAT, its skilled labour training and development.

 NORCAT is leading that charge in terms of integrating and developing learning technologies around the world, he said. 

“We are heavily invested in building, developing and deploying new and emerging learning technologies to integrate with other means of delivering training and education,” Duval said.

“As a function of COVID-19, many businesses and many training institutions are now rethinking the world of work and the world of learning, and wondering how it’s going to change.”

NORCAT has faced some very difficult times during the pandemic, Duval said. 

“Everything seemed to have been paused for four or five months, but we weathered the storm, and we’ve had some exceptional support from both the federal and provincial governments. We are now back into a status quo ‘new normal,’ and we are seeing some growth in many of our businesses, including our learning technology, which has almost doubled in the last six months.”

Customers are now looking at how they are delivering their training, and recognizing the day of bringing in large groups of people and cramming them into a small room for training, is not effective and feasible, especially right now, Duval said. 

“We’re helping coach and advise, and then we are able to build that strategy in-house,” he said.