Since February 2019 there has not been any update from the Ontario government about ONCA coming into force.  As we have noted before the Ontario government is no longer referring to ONCA coming into force in early 2020.  A few months ago we put in a freedom of information request on ONCA and the computer company developing the new ONBIS system.   We wanted to know why it has taken so long to move ONCA along and when it is likely to come into force.   We just received the answer to my ATIP request and needless to say it does not answer either of the questions with there being some significant redactions.   Here is the FOI response from the Ontario Government on ONCA from the Blumbergs request.  It is interesting and 37 pages in length but does not provide much in terms of why ONCA has been so delayed and when ONCA will come in!

As we have noted elsewhere it may make a lot of sense for some Ontario corporations to move to the Federal Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (“CNCA”).  Here is some information on ONCA and the options for Ontario corporations.

Some of the tidbits of information we learned include:

  • The current Ontario Business Information System (ONBIS) was built in 1992 – in computer years that is a long time ago!
  • It is “Inefficient and manual business processes” – could have guessed that.
  • It is “Outdated and proprietary technology platform, vendor support discontinued Oct/2020”
  • In a briefing at the beginning of 2019 it says “Project is at mid-way point and on track for a stable early 2020 launch”.  To say after 10 years that the project is “mid-way” is disconcerting and on track for 2020 launch – but really is it?
  • The objective of the new Ontario Business Registry System is to “Build transformative digital platform that delivers user-friendly services for businesses in Ontario” – ok I am used to non-profits and charities being ignored so I am just going to let that slide!  There are over 50,000 Ontario non-profits under the OCA system but they did not make it into the tagline.  
  • The ON government is better at making really cool graphics than it is at delivering a computer system.   Ok that was not in there but I did draw that conclusion.   
  • The platform will be a really good digital platform and delivered sometime between 2020 and when climate change destroys the earth.
  • The platform will do everything except mail you a pre-printed ballot to vote for Doug Ford – perhaps you have to call to get that service! It will according to the Ontario government: 
    • Replace legacy outdated ONBIS technology
    • Build new foundational business platform to support government and enable priorities
    • Easier for businesses to setup/maintain/interact with government
    • Provide a direct to government online presence for all business registration services
    • Simpler for public to obtain accurate/timely information about businesses
    • Supports proclamation of Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporation Act
    • Business Law statutes modernized to enable more flexibility to allow for system upgrades
      and process changes driven by customer expectations
    • Allow integration with nation-wide single Business Number (BN) program  
  • There is no discussion of numbers or costs – assume the project is ten-fold over original estimates – ON government if I am wrong please do send me something on this point!
  • All information on current status, project risks, and financial view have been unfortunately redacted.
  • There are 58,000 new entities incorporated each year under the Ontario system and it is not clear how many of those are non-profit vs. for-profit.  Many non-profit groups would be better off registering under the CNCA and skipping the OCA  and ONCA altogether but unfortunately, the ON government does not do a good job of explaining to people how setting up an Ontario non-profit can be very costly and time-consuming mistake for some groups.   
  • On page 15 there is a discussion of milestones which sound impressive but really hard to know what that will actually mean. 
  • The Ontario government presentations on ONCA talk about the user experience “current journey” but they do not talk about the user experience under the new proposed system as it is redacted!  How bad can the future journey be – ok I will not answer that one.  

I will just point out that I put in lots of FOI/ATIP requests to the Federal government (especially CRA) and mostly they work well.  I have put in 2 ATIP requests to the ON government and it is quite clear that the Ontario government tries to make it as hard and costly as possible to get information.   The people who work there seem to be nice enough but quite clearly MGCS has put a lockdown on information and wants the public to stay uninformed.      It would be unfair to blame this on the Conservatives as it follows the Liberal playbook so well but the Conservative are the government in power and it would be nice if the non-profit sector was provided with some information on when this major transformation will take place, the regulations that will underpin the transformation (even if only drafts) and other helpful material such as forms that will be used.