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Ontario reveals investment agency in 2020 budget, as economic development ministry sees second year of cuts – BetaKit



Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government delivered its 2020-2021 budget on Thursday, the second budget of Premier Doug Ford’s administration. The fiscal outlook includes approximately $187 billion in total spending this year with a record deficit of $38.5 billion.

The budget placed a heavy emphasis on the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery efforts, with some notable spending for the business and tech sector. Here is a breakdown of what Ontario’s budget 2020 means for the province’s innovation sector.

The budget includes $719.2 million in spending for the ministry of economic development, job creation and trade, which oversees tech and innovation in the province.

Among the province’s initiatives is a new investment attraction agency aimed to be a “one-stop-shop” for new businesses and investors. The agency, which will be called Invest Ontario, will initially focus on three sectors: technology, advanced manufacturing, and life sciences. The new agency has yet to officially launch.

The budget, which was initially set to be released in March but was postponed due to the pandemic, includes $719.2 million in spending for the ministry of economic development, job creation and trade, which oversees tech and innovation in the province.

The allocated funding represents a decline from the $782 million budgeted for the ministry in 2019-2020. Notably, however, it is an increase from the $582 million spent in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, according to the budget.

Ben Bergen, executive director of the Canadian Council of Innovators (CCI), expressed the organization is encouraged to see measures in Budget 2020 it says will help innovative, high-growth companies.

He added, however, “we continue to call on the government to invest into strategic programs to increase access to talent, capital, and customers for Ontario’s biggest job and wealth creators: its homegrown companies.”

In the budget, the province said approximately 94 percent of businesses in Ontario will see a reduction in their property taxes, by standardizing the Business Education Tax and offering a permanent exemption from paying the Employer Health Tax.

The budget also included $3.75 million over two years to support work by the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and the Toronto Business Development Centre to attract more international startups to Ontario. The organizations are tasked with initially focusing on attracting emerging companies in India to expand their operations to Ontario.

While the provincial budget shows some promising signs in spending for the innovation sector, it is unclear what a second year of budget cuts for the ministry of economic development, job creation and trade means for the tech sector.

RELATED: In lieu of 2020 budget, Ontario puts forth fiscal update of $17 billion to fight COVID-19

Ontario’s 2019 budget was considered by many in the province’s tech community a disappointment due to its unfettered cuts to innovation organizations and programs.

The Ford government’s sweeping cuts axed a number of programs, such as the Campus-Linked Accelerator program and all provincial funding to Angel Investors Ontario and Futurpreneur.

Prominent tech hubs were also affected by budget cuts last year. Communitech, MaRS Discovery District, and the OCE all experienced provincial funding cuts, causing them to lay off employees and re-evaluate programming.

Two months after the release of the 2019 budget, Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli was “demoted” to the role of minister of economic development, job creation and trade, after Fedeli reportedly lost face with Premier Ford over the unpopular cuts in the 2019 budget.

With a heavy emphasis on the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery efforts, this year’s budget was focused on three pillars: protect, support, and recover. The budget highlighted its actions in ensuring access to virtual healthcare and digital-first tools, noting how it created temporary fee schedule codes that insured physician phone and video patient visits under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

The budget highlighted the government’s actions in ensuring access to virtual healthcare and digital-first tools.

Prior to the release of the budget, Technation, a tech industry association, recommended the government’s budget make virtual healthcare “the norm,” even post-COVID-19, arguing such a move would improve patient access to healthcare, decrease wait-times, and save the system money. Technation also pushed for the government to work closely with industry to identify gaps in Ontario’s workforce.

In the budget, the government also highlighted its previously-announced $680 million investment to expand and improve broadband internet and cellular access. Technation president and CEO Angela Mondou told BetaKit that investment is critical not only for citizens but also for accelerating the digital transformation of small-to-medium-sized businesses.

Additionally, the budget reveals new investments from the province in a series of research initiatives aimed to help stimulate the economy and support COVID-19 recovery efforts.

The government is investing $2 million for the Ontario Health Data Platform, which it says will explore opportunities to integrate datasets and support research projects related to COVID-19. The Canada Foundation for Innovation will receive an investment of $3.5 million to support the operations and maintenance related to Advanced Research Computing in Ontario. The province is also investing up to $2 million in funding to enhance collaboration across Ontario’s research sector.

Under its “recover” pillar, the government is investing $37 million in employment and training services to help more than 15,000 upgrade their skills to fit the needs of Ontario’s economy. That investment will specifically support 86 projects and provide training in high-demand skills like information technology and advanced manufacturing.

Both the CCI and Technation urged the government to up its procurement efforts to aid the province’s pandemic recovery efforts. CCI said not only should the government procure physical products, but also modern digital offerings like digital health services, online education services, and cybersecurity tools to strengthen Ontario’s supply chain resiliency.

RELATED: CEOs say lack of targeted support will shutter Ontario tech companies in open letter to Premier

According to the budget, the Ontario government is investing $1.5 million towards the Special Implementation Team on Intellectual Property (IP) that was established to support the government’s IP action plan, released over the summer.

Bergen told BetaKit he hoped the government would continue to focus on the generation and commercialization of IP. The government’s IP action plan would see the province work with post-secondary and research organizations to revise the mandates of provincial commercialization entities, such as startup hubs and accelerators.

The province is also proposing to extend reporting deadlines for the Ontario Research and Development Tax Credit to give corporations more time to file a claim. The credit offers a non-refundable tax credit to businesses on eligible scientific research and experimental development expenditures.

The government is also investing $500 million over four years in a new Ontario Onwards Acceleration Fund, including $60 million for 2020-20201, which it says will pilot new technologies that improve how people and businesses experience government services in Ontario.

Image source Pixabay.

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U.S. stocks rebound following rout, bond yields dip



U.S. shares rebounded on Thursday after falling for three consecutive days and benchmark Treasury yields dipped, as investors snapped up technology stocks and shrugged off worries about rising prices, for now.

After posting their biggest slump in at least 11 weeks on Wednesday, U.S. shares bounced back as cash-flush investors looked past concerns that accelerating inflation may prompt quicker interest rate hikes, and deployed their funds once more.

So intent were investors on leaving inflation worries aside that financial markets barely responded to Thursday’s data, which showed U.S. producer prices posting their biggest annual gain since 2010 in April.

“It’s rebound Thursday,” said John Augustine, chief investment officer at Huntington Private Bank, which manages $20 billion. “Given the money on the sidelines, investors are going to be coming back in.”

Still, Augustine said investors should re-deploy their funds in a measured way because “inflation concerns are not going away”.

By midday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had added 1.4%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite narrowed earlier gains to be up 1.3% and 0.9%, respectively.

The MSCI world equity index, which includes 50 countries, also bounced slightly, gaining 0.2%.

U.S. stocks had tumbled earlier this week after data showed U.S. consumer prices unexpectedly jumped by the most in almost 12 years in April.

Some investors now worry that quickening price pressures could lead the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy sooner than expected, and reduce its supply of cheap money that has been propelling financial markets higher.

For now, however, inflation woes took a backseat.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields, which had spiked 7 basis points overnight in the biggest daily rise in two months, edged down by more than 3 basis points to 1.6625% as investors took a breather.

Benchmark two-year Treasury yields also pulled back to 0.1589%.

Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar was steady at 90.727, holding gains eked out on Wednesday when expectations of rate hikes burnished the currency’s appeal.

A firm dollar capped gains in the euro, which edged up 0.1% to $1.20875. [USD/]

The pull-back in Treasury yields helped gold to recoup some of Wednesday’s losses, when the jump in bond yields dampened the allure of non-yielding bullion. Spot gold climbed 0.7% off a one-week low to $1,825.61 per ounce.

A recent rally in oil prices also paused on Thursday as investors turned their attention to the coronavirus crisis in India, and as a key U.S. fuel pipeline resumed operations.

Brent crude slumped 3.5% to $66.93 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude lost 3.8% to $63.53 a barrel.

Among cryptocurrencies, bitcoin, which tumbled 13% overnight when Elon Musk said Tesla would stop accepting it as payment because of its high energy use, fell below $50,000 again on Thursday following reports that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating crypto exchange Binance.

By midday, bitcoin had dropped 2.2% to $48.314.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; additional reporting by Tom Wilson and Marc Jones in London; Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing Nick Macfie, Dan Grebler and Cynthia Osterman)

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Dogecoin dropped after Elon Musk calls it a ‘hustle’ on ‘SNL’ show



By Alden Bentley and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The value of dogecoin dropped sharply in early U.S. hours on Sunday, after Tesla chief and cryptocurrency supporter Elon Musk called it a ‘hustle’ during his guest-host spot on the “Saturday Night Live” comedy sketch TV show.

Dogecoin was quoted as low as $0.47 on crypto exchange Binance, down 28% from levels around $0.65 before the show.

The billionaire Tesla Inc chief executive hosted the show at 11:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday (0330 GMT on Sunday).

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts had for days been eager to see what he would say, after his tweets this year turned the once-obscure digital currency into a speculator’s dream.

Asked ‘what is dogecoin’, Musk replied, “It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world.”

When a show cast member Michael Che countered, “So, it’s a hustle?”, Musk replied, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.” And laughed.

Musk is the rare business mogul to have been asked to host the venerable comedy TV show. The timing puts Musk back in the spotlight just as Tesla’s stock is losing steam following last year’s monster rally.

The unconventional CEO has posted numerous comments about cryptocurrencies on Twitter and criticized regular old cash for having negative real interest rates.

“Only a fool wouldn’t look elsewhere,” he said in February.

His cryptic tweets “Doge” and “Dogecoin is the people’s crypto” that month kicked off a rally in dogecoin – created as a parody on the more mainstream bitcoin and ethereum.

On Thursday, Musk tweeted: “Cryptocurrency is promising, but please invest with caution!” with a video clip attached in which he said, “it should be considered speculation at this point. And so, you know, don’t don’t go too far in the crypto speculation …”

But he also said, in the video, that cryptocurrency has a “good chance” of becoming what he called “the future currency of the Earth.”

On crypto data tracker, dogecoin has jumped more than 800% over the last month and is now the fourth-largest digital currency, with a market capitalization of $73 billion. It hit a record high Thursday above $0.73.

It has overtaken more widely used cryptocurrencies such as litecoin and tether.

Tesla said in February it bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin and would soon accept it as a form of payment for its electric cars, a large stride toward mainstream acceptance that sent bitcoin soaring to a record high of nearly $62,000.

Tesla shares closed 1.3% higher at $672.37 on Friday.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Alden Bentley in New York, and Noel Randewich and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco Additional reporting by Joe White and Vidya RanganathanEditing by Matthew Lewis & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Wealthsimple hits $4 billion valuation on funding from Ryan Reynolds, Drake




(Reuters) -Wealthsimple said on Monday it has raised C$750 million ($610.40 million) in its latest funding round, which more than doubled the Canadian fintech company‘s valuation to C$5 billion.

The latest funding round included participation from celebrities Drake, Michael Fox and Ryan Reynolds, according to the company.

The Toronto-based company that has helped make stock trading, peer-to-peer money transfers and tax filing easily accessible, said it will use the amount raised to further expand its market position, product suite and team.

The latest funding round, led by venture capital firms Meritech and Greylock, also includes investments from iNovia, Sagard, TSV and Redpoint.

The funding consists of C$250 million primary fundraising by Wealthsimple and a C$500 million secondary offering by holding company Power Corp of Canada, its largest shareholder.

Wealthsimple said it has seen rapid growth in the past 14 months as Canadians took an interest in stock trading during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the company said it plans to grow revenue by adding premium features for its clients.

($1 = 1.2288 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Eva Mathews and Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Shounak Dasgupta)

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