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Budget 2006 - The Right Choices : Momentum for Growth and Prosperity

March 30, 2006
(Executive Council)

The Right Choices: Unleashing Innovation
Budget 2006 Unleashes Innovation and Positions Province for Competitive Edge

Unleashing the innovative spirit of the province through investments in strategic growth sectors, education, training and technology will position the province with a more competitive edge Premier Danny Williams said today. Budget 2006 provides a strong foundation on which Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can develop innovative ideas for the social and economic benefit of the province.

"The bold new attitude of our province continues to garner national attention. Working in partnership with industry to develop a skills-based workforce will give us a competitive edge," said Premier Danny Williams. "Key sectors such as energy, agrifoods, marine technology, ICT, tourism and the fishery can generate more economic opportunities if we remain leaders in learning and in the development of leading-edge technology."

The new innovation strategy, Innovation Newfoundland and Labrador: A Blueprint For Prosperity � a $20 million investment over the next four years � combined with more than $14.9 million targeted to research, technology and skills development, allows the imagination and creativity of our province to capture the hearts and minds of the country.

"This administration recognizes that making smart investments will help our province prosper, economically and socially. It is for this reason our Blueprint outlined the development of an innovation strategy for this province," said Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. "Our newly-announced innovation strategy is a framework from which we can foster innovation in the province and advance areas where innovation translates into new prospects and opportunities."

Unleashing Innovation
Minister Dunderdale said government has developed, over the past two years, a suite of tools to enhance economic and business growth in the province. Through the innovation strategy, government introduces another critical programming element to support this province�s entrepreneurs and their innovative companies. Budget 2006 has allocated $5 million for two programs to support the private sector and the research and development activities of industry associations, academic institutions and other not-for-profit organizations.

The Commercialization Program is designed to bridge the gap companies face in moving from new technologies to true commercial activity. Through the approximately $3 million program, government will provide patient equity investments so that a company's balance sheet can still remain attractive to private investors.

The Innovation Enhancement Program will assist not-for-profit organizations that support innovation by enhancing research and development (R&D) capacity. The approximately $2 million program will provide grants to develop and enhance the fundamental underpinnings of an innovative society including elements such as R&D capacity, scholarships and employment opportunities for young innovators. Innovation enhancement initiatives will also include activities such as the development of strategic clusters and innovation awards.

"The innovation programs complement government�s Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Fund and the Regional/Sectoral Diversification Fund, providing further support to our province�s promising companies," said Minister Dunderdale. "These businesses now have the necessary supports to fully embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and take their innovative companies to new levels."

Education as the Foundation for Innovation
Education Minister Joan Burke said education is key to identifying and developing cutting edge opportunities, and to ensuring Newfoundland and Labrador has the available workforce to meet exciting new opportunities.

"Our province must be diligent about building a qualified and skilled workforce that meets industry requirements, especially those associated with large-scale development projects. This will also increase our global competitiveness," said Minister Burke. "Our education system will be developed to support opportunities in innovation."

Budget 2006 commits to significant investments of $14.9 million in the technology and skilled trades fields including:

  • Investing in research and innovation with $7.5 million for the Industrial and Research Innovation Fund to attract research dollars and allow our public post-secondary institutions to build strong research capacities;
  • Expanding skilled trades programming with a $4.3 million investment in both the K-12 and post-secondary systems;
  • Establishing a Skills Task Force to develop a plan for the skill needs of the province, in partnership with business, labour, educational institutions and other key stakeholders, with an investment of $100,000;
  • Allocating an additional $1 million to College of the North Atlantic to facilitate new program development and broaden industry-specific training;
  • $1 million to support opportunities for new training capacity in engineering technology, particularly for programs targeted at the oil and gas sector to maximize benefits from oil and gas activities in the province; and,
  • Investing in modern apprenticeship shops with $1 million for College of the North Atlantic to modernize equipment for training programs. Students need training on modern and high quality equipment to be ready to compete in the workplace.
  • Innovation in Technology
    Through the new Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), government will continue to invest in technologies to create a more efficient and streamlined flow of information both through and from the public sector. The OCIO will engage the private information technology sector to stimulate technological advancement, private sector job creation and economic development. This year government is investing an additional $7.5 million for new and ongoing IT projects to advance this work.

    The new investments will position the OCIO to build on the many successes it has already achieved in its short history. These include implementation of a process to improve the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's ability to manage major cases and deal with a large amount of documentation that is part of a major case; planning work with other Atlantic provinces to improve the identification of and response to communicable diseases; initial planning and design of a new solution to replace the antiquated wildlife information management system; development and implementation of an integrated management system for our provincial courts; and, work on a new system to improve government's overall procurement practices, administration of contracts, and electronic interactions with suppliers of goods and services to government.

    With the Budget 2006 investments, the OCIO will begin the process of modernizing government�s legacy computer systems, many of which have been operational for more than 20 years. These include systems for MCP, motor vehicle registration and teachers� payroll system. The OCIO will also develop e-government initiatives to be able to deliver more services over the Internet and improve the availability and accessibility of government services to the public.

    To advance health technology, government will invest a further $2 million this year for the provincial pharmacy network to improve patient safety and care, making medication histories available on-line to attending physicians and pharmacists. The network will provide the tools and processes to support prescribing, dispensing, compliance monitoring and research regarding prescription medications. The province is working in partnership with Canada Health Infoway to develop the network.

    Government recognizes the need to enhance the technology used to support the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program (NLPDP) and has provided funding in Budget 2006 to implement an on-line real-time claims system. This new system will provide real-time on-line adjudication of pharmacy claims, provide immediate feedback at the pharmacy level of the potential abuse/misuse of medications obtained under the NLPDP, and assist in providing timely access to medications considered under the special authorization process. Further details on the new on-line real-time claims system will be released in the coming weeks.

    "Investing in health information will ensure the seamless flow of patient information across all systems," said Health and Community Services Minister Tom Osborne. "Budget 2006 builds on our investments to date in the province-wide Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS), along with providing greater accountability in the delivery of health care services in our province."

    Media contact:
    Elizabeth Matthews, Office of the Premier, (709) 729-3960, 690-5500
    Lynn Evans, Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, (709) 729-4570, 690-6290
    Jacquelyn Howard, Education, (709) 729-0048, 689-2624
    Tansy Mundon, Health and Community Services, (709) 729-1377, 685-1741

    2006 03 30                                              2:25 p.m.

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