The lobby group representing many of Canada’s high-tech companies has swallowed up one of Toronto’s technology organizations, leaving several new media producers wondering if their interests can truly be protected under the new arrangement. The Smart Toronto Technology Alliance (STTA) is becoming a division within the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA). CATA is based in Ottawa with four regional offices. Among the companies represented on its board are Alcatel Canada Inc., BCE Emergis and Telesat Canada. STTA’s 2002 board of directors included representatives from Bell Canada, Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus National Systems. The president of STTA isn’t worried about the merger. “There will be directors from the board of SMART Toronto that will now serve on an advisory committee that will ensure that, of course, the voice and initiatives that are unique to the Toronto tech community are carried forward to the CATA board,” Cindy Pearson states. “We’ll have an advisory committee and then from that advisory committee we will have four to six directors who will sit on the CATA national board. And all of this is working toward CATA’s new business plan.” But Pearson will have to work hard to reassure her former members. There was consternation in the Toronto new media community when SMART Toronto took over the Liberty Village New Media Centre last November. (The merged group adopted the STTA moniker at that time.) Digital media companies weren’t sure that STTA would look after their interests. Now that they have become a minuscule part of a national organization, those fears have increased. “Watching the amount of money that rolled into Liberty Village and then segued into SMART Toronto and all of the various stakeholders in the sense of the City of Toronto’s component, and the technology sector – all of those watching this and then seeing this thing after all the years of SMART Toronto having promoted itself as a leader and as a point, it’s sad,” Tony Tobias of Pangaea New Media opines. “Look at the waste of money.” STTA’s Innovation Centre in Toronto has a bailiff’s notice affixed to its front door. Pearson blames lack of support from the high-tech industry for the closure of the Centre. She had hoped larger players would provide resources and people who could help small- and medium-sized businesses. Landlord York Heritage Properties has seized assets as compensation for the group breaking its lease. Pearson asserts that any penalties for the broken lease will be recouped through asset seizures and that CATA is not on the hook for any funds. The STTA moved out late last month, leaving several sub-tenants scratching their heads about the situation. York Heritage is reportedly working with the sub-tenants to secure them new offices. Many of them are upset that they heard the news of the STTA departure from the landlord, not from the organization itself. “The first thing that we had to do, of course, was advise the landlord. We advised the landlord,” Pearson reports. “The next step is to advise your tenants. I didn’t have an opportunity to advise the tenants before the landlord advised the tenants. But, I think on the positive side of this, we met with the landlord immediately and contacted the tenants as soon as I learned that the landlord had done so.” STTA members are asking questions about financing. The Ontario government provided grants of $275,000 to the group and more money was raised through membership fees. Members wonder how the money was spent and if any of it remains. Pearson says some of the provincial funding will be repaid. The Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation and STTA negotiated terms of repayment when the windup of the group was revealed. For more on the STTA’s demise, see the August 28, 2003 issue of NL affiliate publication Canadian NEW MEDIA.