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Gianluca Cairo, chief of staff to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, will start in mid-August at the publicly traded tech company, which is headquartered in Minneapolis but run from Toronto. His appointment was cleared by the federal ethics commissioner. (Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: Ceridian’s primary users are U.S. businesses—the country accounted for 67.8 per cent of the firm’s US$746 million in revenue in 2018. The public sector represents a new market for the firm, and it’s been shortlisted for a major contract in Canada. In June, the federal government announced that the firm was one of three finalists, along with CGI Group and Oracle, to build a replacement for the Phoenix payroll system. Cairo was chief of staff to then-public services minister Judy Foote when the platform was activated in February 2016; 40 per cent of federal employees subsequently faced pay problems as a result of the new system. Cairo has experience at another Canadian-run tech firm with large operations in the U.S. Before moving to Ottawa following the Liberals’ 2015 election victory, he was an executive at Altus Group, a Toronto-based real estate data and software company that did 30 per cent of its business in the U.S. that year.

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The three qualified vendors were chosen from a five-firm shortlist that also included CGI Group and Oracle, following user testing exhibitions and feedback from government employees. The firms will run pilot projects with government departments later this year. More than one may be chosen to provide the final payroll technology. It will replace the Phoenix system, which was turned on in 2016, and caused payroll problems for 40 per cent of government employees. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The selection of a new payroll system is the most high-profile test for Ottawa’s new technology procurement process, spearheaded by Chief Information Officer Alex Benay. Instead of a single, big-money, multi-year contract awarded to create a solution across all of government at once, he wants to use an “agile” process, with software companies proposing solutions and providing working prototypes to test in small rollouts. While Benay’s boss, Treasury Board President Joyce Murray, has insisted the new system isn’t a cost-cutting measure—a goal the government said was one of the factors in the failure of Phoenix—it could be less expensive than setting up Phoenix has been. In May, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated it will cost $57 million to set up, and up to $106 million a year to run. In June 2018, the government forecast that fixing Phoenix will cost another $2.5 billion, on top of the $1.1 billion it had already spent.

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The government’s top technology executive will begin his new role in September. Mindbridge makes artificial-intelligence (AI) tools for accountants auditing financial data. In June, the Ottawa-based firm was awarded $14.5 million from the Strategic Innovation Fund and announced a $15.1-million investment round. (Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: Benay is leaving as some of the biggest projects he’s spearheaded are ready to be implemented. He proposed a new way for government to acquire big technology systems, asking software companies to build prototypes for small rollouts instead of awarding a single contract for a product to be launched across all departments at once. Ottawa is testing this process as it picks a replacement for the Phoenix payroll system, and has shortlisted three firms to run pilot projects later this year. Benay also co-authored a plan for the government’s use of its internal data, which requires every department and agency to have an information-management strategy in place by September. And, he tried to introduce more AI into the government, working with the procurement ministry to speed up acquisition of the technology by pre-approving 74 firms to bid on projects. Benay’s departure leaves the government looking for its third CIO in four years.

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Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced $1.1 million in funding on Wednesday for Palette, an organization that matches companies with talent. The funding will help launch a pilot to retrain mid-career workers whose jobs are threatened by automation. The first program will focus on training for new skills related to sales. At the end of it, participants will be placed with one of several tech companies in the Toronto area, including D2L, Ceridian, Moneris and Clearbanc. (BetaKit)

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Talking point: The federal government has made it a priority to address the changing labour market. This new funding—while relatively small—is on top of the $225 million it’s rolling out to the Ryerson University-led Future Skills Centre, which is also tasked with filling Canada’s skills gap in the face of more automation. That project is moving slow; so far, it’s announced just six projects that are predominantly focused on studying the skills gap. Palette’s program is more practical and immediate, by placing workers directly with companies after just a few weeks.

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Lightspeed CFO Brandon Nussey, Ceridian CEO David Ossip and SOTI CEO Carl Rodrigues are concerned that individuals receiving more than $200,000 worth of shares will be affected by higher taxes, making it harder to attract top talent. (Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: The new measures are designed to target employees at “large, long-established, mature firms,” but won’t affect startups and “emerging Canadian businesses,” according to the budget. It doesn’t define what constitutes a startup or emerging business, however. It’s unclear if more established tech firms like Lighstpeed—a 14-year-old company that went public earlier this month and currently has a market cap of $1.8 billion—will be affected. Tech companies have dodged similar tax increases before. In 2016, the government dropped a plan to tax stock options gains in excess of $100,000 that would have affected small companies as well as more established ones.

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Lightspeed, which offers point-of-sale systems for retailers, sold a total of 17.25 million subordinate shares at the time of the IPO’s close. The company said it would use the money to pursue its growth strategies, which include expanding its Lightspeed Payments solution. (PE Hub Canada)

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Talking point: The $276-million close is $36 million more than Lightspeed’s initial target of $240 million. The growth of other software-as-a-service (SaaS) firms like Shopify and Ceridian on the TSX likely helped boost interest, and Lightspeed’s market cap now sits at $1.84 billion, making it one of Canada’s biggest publicly-traded SaaS companies. The company—which has made its mark selling cloud point-of-sale software to retailers—told The Logic after its IPO that Lightspeed Payments’ growth potential is in opportunities beyond payment processing, such as lending for businesses.