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Tim Hockey, left, Ontario's newly appointed Private Sector Champion for the Digital and Citizen-Facing Results Unit, speaks with the Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, Ontario's Minister Responsible for Digital Government and Data Transformation.Sonia Cacoilo/Handout

The Ontario government has tapped the former head of one of the world’s largest online brokerage houses as its digital transformation czar.

Tim Hockey, previously chief executive officer of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., volunteered to spend the next three years as special adviser to Premier Doug Ford to help the province with projects that range from creating a digital wallet for important personal information, including COVID-19 vaccination certification, to going online in health care, vehicle registration, education and the courts.

Mr. Hockey, 57, is also a former head of retail banking at Toronto-Dominion Bank, where he ran the country’s largest branch network. He left TD Ameritrade this year when the company was acquired by rival Charles Schwab Corp. in a friendly, US$26-billion takeover.

“Our goal is to ensure Ontario ranks among the leading digital jurisdictions in the world,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, the Ontario cabinet minister leading digital initiatives as President of the Treasury Board. He said Mr. Hockey has a track record for using technology to give clients the experience they want from a financial institution, an approach the province would like to replicate. Mr. Bethlenfalvy said: “We want to be digital first, but not digital only. We want to give people options.”

Mr. Hockey recently moved back to Toronto from New York and turned down a number of paid executive positions before saying yes to the unpaid provincial role. He started on Dec. 2, and said his mandate “is simple, it’s to use technology to improve the lives of the people of Ontario.”

“I’ve always thought of my career as having times to learn, to earn and to return. This is a time to return to the community,” Mr. Hockey said. When Charles Schwab bought TD Ameritrade, Mr. Hockey received a US$37.4-million severance package.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government recently set out a list of 11 technology-based projects, including the concept of uniting information in health cards, driver’s licenses and other government identification in one digital wallet contained in a cellphone. Mr. Hockey said his experience at TD Bank included projects to move client information online, working with telecom companies and rival banks. He said: “I think I have something to offer on issues around privacy and security when introducing technology.”

Mr. Hockey said his priorities include helping make every person’s lifelong vaccination data, currently in the government’s online databases, available in a digital format, rather than only on paper. That project touches on privacy issues for individuals, employers and companies such as airlines that may demand proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Mr. Hockey, an ardent cyclist, said he eventually plans to spend two to three days a week on provincial projects, but is currently working seven days a week. He said: ”In a winter of COVID, I’ve got time to dedicate to this job.”

Mr. Ford won the provincial election in 2018 on a pro-business platform, and Mr. Bethlenfalvy said the project to use technology better is part of the government’s strategy to make it easier for small-business owners to run their companies. For example, he said, 50,000 different kinds of farm vehicles must be registered at government offices, a process Mr. Hockey can help move online.

As part of an ongoing plan to bring private-sector expertise to the civil service, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government recruited former Canadian Tire chief operating officer Allan MacDonald in April as its chief COVID-19 procurement adviser.

That appointment quickly improved the province’s ability to deal with the pandemic, Mr. Bethlenfalvy said. He said Mr. MacDonald helped 7,000 different purchasing managers across all levels of government co-ordinate orders for personal protective equipment, “rather than fighting over who gets supplies.”

The Ontario government is scouting for private-sector experts for three other volunteer roles, broadly described as reducing red tape, improving government purchasing and creating a more responsive and flexible public service.

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