Ask local tech leaders what they’re hoping to see from whichever party becomes Ontario’s next government, and their answer is as quick to come as it is succinct.

“The number-one ask is for transportation … to try to make the Toronto-Waterloo corridor a reality,” says Chris Plunkett, vice-president of external relations at Communitech.

Specifically, Plunkett says, Communitech wants to see action on enhanced GO Train service and high-speed rail.

The Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and NDP have all said they would run “all-day, two-way” GO Train service between Kitchener and Toronto and to at least studying a high-speed rail option.

Plunkett says he would like to see that study become a reality, and would like to see both projects moved up from their current timetables for completion, which are in the mid-2020s.

If this leaves you wondering why the local tech sector places more weight on a transportation issue than anything else, Plunkett says it all comes down to improving local companies’ ability to attract employees.

Calling that attraction “absolutely the most important thing” for the sector, given how many companies are in hiring mode, Plunkett says improved transportation will help bring in workers who are currently passing up opportunities in Waterloo Region because their partner may be employed outside the region.

“If there isn’t a reasonable transit link to Toronto or other places, that makes it really hard to sell them on moving here,” he says.

Faster and more frequent travel could also help retain new graduates from the University of Waterloo in the region.  According to the Council of Canadian Innovators, a recent report has found that about 25 per cent of graduates from STEM fields are leaving Canada for positions in the U.S. tech sector. Another report claims there will be 220,000 vacant jobs in Canadian tech by 2020.

The council asked each party what it would do to help retain skilled tech workers in Ontario.

The Liberals said they would invest $132 million to create partnerships between post-secondary institutions and employers, which they believe would boost STEM grads by 25 per cent. The NDP said it would create 27,000 new paid co-op and internship positions and put $57 million toward opportunities in the trades. The Progressive Conservatives said they would increase access to apprenticeships and make it easier for people from outside Canada to have their credentials recognized within the province.

“Some parties are really wanting to talk about innovation, and others less so,” says Benjamin Bergen, the council’s executive director.

The full report also touches on parties’ promises around access to capital, helping tech companies find more customers, and protecting Ontarians’ personal data.

With reporting by Tina Yazdani