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Change in Power: What the New Provincial Government Can Mean for Ontario Life Sciences

The Progressive Conservatives’ landslide victory in last week’s provincial election has many of us wondering what’s next. Can this historic shift in power bring social and fiscal policies into balance, or will it trigger an extreme swing of the pendulum? And what does this all mean for our life sciences sector?

I’d like to begin by clearly stating that LSO will work diligently with this newly-elected government to help advance the health and wealth of Ontarians. Life sciences remains Ontario’s greatest untapped opportunity for economic growth and social prosperity; we must work together proactively to continue accelerating its success.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: an Ontario biotech success story has the potential to revolutionize our economy. In the US, three biotech companies – Amgen, Gilead, and Celgene – have a combined market capitalization of US $258B, exceeding the entire Canadian mining sector listed on the TSX (over 1,200 companies with a market cap of US $230B). We aren’t there yet, but we’re making huge strides.

Ontario’s life sciences sector currently contributes $38.5 billion to the province’s GDP and ranks among the top clusters in North America. And we’re pioneering astounding innovations: Ottawa company eSight has developed eyewear that allows the legally blind to see. Technology from Toronto-based Synaptive Medical enables doctors to perform complex brain and spinal surgeries that were previously thought impossible. Global pharmaceutical giant Sanofi recently invested $500 million toward a Canadian vaccine facility based in North York. The delegation we sent to this year’s BIO International Convention in Boston – with nearly 1,000 Canadians, 360 of them from Ontario, was nothing short of stellar.

Life sciences is also crucial to driving sustainability in our health care system, developing technologies to control climate change, and providing knowledge-based jobs for our highly-educated workforce (more than 55% of Ontarians have a college or university degree, 25% higher than the OECD average).

So, how do we capture this massive opportunity? We need a plan. We need a coordinated life sciences strategy. And this is where the newly-elected provincial government can step in to play a crucial role in securing our economic future.

While the federal government is developing its own approach through its Health and Biosciences Economic Strategy Table, Ontario remains among the only major life sciences jurisdictions in North America without such a strategy in place. With the importance of such a strategy in mind, Life Sciences Ontario released its Blueprint document in December 2017. It lays out a comprehensive plan and recommendations to accelerate the success of life sciences, with specific action around access to capital, talent growth, support for innovation, and promotion of our sector. It is endorsed by leading provincial and national life sciences, health, and economic organizations.

Our sector is non-partisan by its very nature. It touches on almost every facet of our sustainability and success as a province and nation: the food we eat, the health of our population and environment, our research and innovation capacity to solve intractable challenges, and the jobs and wealth that fuel our economic growth.

At LSO, we believe in the potential that our sector represents. We remain committed to science, evidence-based policy making, and driving research, innovation, and commercial success. We will continue our non-partisan approach by working with the new PC government and Premier Doug Ford, the official opposition, and all elected officials to champion these goals.

How we approach life sciences policy in the coming months and years will have a profound, long-term impact on our province and Canada as a whole. To that end, our message to the newly-elected Progressive Conservative government is clear: LSO is here to help. We look forward to working with you to support and advance life sciences and the health and prosperity of all Ontarians.

–Dr. Jason Field,
President & CEO,
Life Sciences Ontario


Life Sciences Ontario is a member-driven organization that represents and promotes the province’s vibrant and diverse life sciences sector. LSO collaborates with governments, academia, industry, and other life science organizations in Ontario and across Canada to promote and encourage commercial success throughout the sector. Membership in Life Sciences Ontario includes individuals, students, emerging companies, investors, service providers, and companies with marketed products. The organization provides a wide range of networking and educational events, and operates a mentorship program that is helping to develop highly-skilled talent and build new business opportunities for the life sciences sector.LSO is an effective conduit for delivering policy options to governments, and is dedicated to promoting Ontario’s life sciences sector internationally.


Melissa Hughes
Director, Marketing & Communications