In his first visit to Communitech since taking office in June of 2018, Ontario Premier Doug Ford pledged to further accelerate the province’s economy, voiced support for tech-based innovation and hubs like Communitech and – addressing the economic news of the day – reassured Ontarians that the government was taking prudent and aggressive measures to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 virus.

“We have to be cautious [but] we’re all over this,” Ford told a breakfast audience at the Tannery Event Centre in Kitchener at the conclusion of a candid fireside-style chat with Communitech CEO Iain Klugman, even as world stock markets were roiling in the wake of virus-related developments.

“The whole world is on high alert, and … some of the brightest minds anywhere in Canada are working on this, not to mention in the U.S., and everywhere else in the world.”

Premier Doug Ford during a tour of the University of Waterloo’s Velocity Garage. (Communitech photo: Anthony Reinhart)

 

With virus-minded fist-bumps and elbow taps replacing traditional handshakes, Ford then toured Communitech. He stopped to chat with staffers at the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) and LCBO innovation labs, taking in the work under way to improve delivery of provincial services – cutting red tape being a key ongoing Ford policy goal.

“So impressed,” Ford said during a short chat with Communitech News midway through his tour of Communitech’s corporate innovation space. “These innovative centres here – individual areas [where] people can learn and share ideas – I think it’s incredible. So exciting.”

Asked what stood out during his morning visit, Ford replied “just the creativity that comes from this region.

“When I go anywhere in North America or around the world, we brag about [Waterloo Region], brag about University of Waterloo and [Wilfrid] Laurier [University] and Conestoga [College]. A lot of the brightest minds in the world are right here in this region,” Ford said, adding his government’s aim is to keep those minds in Ontario and not lose them to Silicon Valley or elsewhere.

To that end, he called the Communitech Hub “absolutely critical” to the province’s overall economic health.

Premier Doug Ford meets the team from Avro Life Science, a Velocity startup that has developed a new type of transdermal drug delivery patch. (Communitech photo: Anthony Reinhart)

Ford was then met by University of Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur and given a tour of Velocity, UW’s successful startup accelerator, along with new Velocity Executive Director Adrien Côté.

Other issues discussed during Ford’s fireside chat included his commitment to improved broadband access for rural Ontarians; the provincial government on Monday simultaneously announced it was moving forward with “a combined $150 million investment to bring fast, reliable internet to thousands of homes and businesses” in southwestern Ontario.

Ford also restated the province’s commitment to the goal of all-day, two-way GO train service along Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, and talked about the need to partner with the federal government to improve Ontario’s access to skilled immigrants and workers to address a talent shortage in some sectors.

And he hinted about what’s to come in the looming provincial budget on March 25.

“The [Ontario Provincial Police] delivered the budget to my house on the weekend,” Ford said. “I’ve got to be careful [about what I say but] it’s going to be a fiscally prudent budget.

“In saying that, we’re going to balance [the budget] in 2023.”

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Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto.  This article originally appeared on their site.