Public Policy Forum – Canada Growth Summit 2023

Catherine Blewett
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Public Policy Forum – Canada Growth Summit 2023
Expert Table Dinner:
The Atlantic Canada Momentum Index

Wednesday, April 26, 2023
8:55 p.m. EDT

National Public Relations
320 Front Street West
Toronto, ON

I am delighted to have been part of this evening’s discussion on the Atlantic Canada Momentum Index. Momentum matters. I am grateful for the report, which is based on credible data, and one that incorporates a range of domain indicators. This is an important touchstone for Atlantic Canada ꟷ leapfrogging over anecdotes, truisms and outdated perceptions of our region – it flags the data that highlights our advantages.

The Atlantic Canada Momentum Index has taken inventory of the tools in our toolkit. And, the assets in our region are substantial. I am personally, and professionally, tired of the old narrative about Atlantic Canada’s economic prospects. It is time to set it aside. Stepping off the plane in Halifax ꟷ as I do every week — I see how dramatically the energy and the demographics in our region have changed over the last decade. When I get off the plane, I see a younger, more diverse Atlantic Canada. It is quite striking.

We are becoming a destination of choice for the world’s smartest people. This changes everything. This is not your grandparents’ Atlantic Canada. While some old biases run deep, we are seeing a shift in the Federation and an opening in the narrative. And, that presents us with opportunity. To shift the perspective of Atlantic Canada, we have to start talking about our value proposition and we have to start advocating for it.

Let’s talk about the fact that:

That said, we also have to be clear-eyed about our deficiencies:

Global Leadership

Atlantic Canadian companies are changemakers globally; some of those changemakers are in this room this evening. I am personally grateful to several of you who continue to stay so meaningfully engaged in supporting and driving  Atlantic growth. Thank you very much. It matters. And you have an impact.

We have only to look at the composition and sophistication of our companies - the number of talented people powering our innovation ecosystem – to see that leadership. I am also grateful that Atlantic opinion leaders in the room have a truly sophisticated view and broader perspective – and understand the current, quite fragile global context.

As Nations realign in a way not seen since the Second World War, we face dramatic, global shifts that impact Atlantic Canada and we are poised to contribute by building alliances around energy, food security, decarbonization
and restructured supply chains. Atlantic Canada is good at these fundamentals. Our region’s physical size
may be limited, but the calibre of our companies and talent pool is not.
However, we have to move with alacrity. We need to hustle.

Canada’s Industrial Strategy

There are regulatory, tax policy, and program conversations happening in Ottawa that are changing the face of the  country; and Atlantic Canada can take up much more space in those conversations. We must be in the right  conversations. Why? Because we have assets that don’t exist anywhere else in Canada.

We are a country of regions. It is important to understand this region’s assets in the context of an emerging national industrial strategy that is laying big financial bets as Canada seeks to counter the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and change across the G7. It is interesting to note Atlantic Canada’s proximity to some of the recent


Conclusion ꟷ Maximize Opportunity

I want to sincerely thank the Public Policy Forum for its work on the Atlantic Momentum Index. I remember calls with Ed  in the early days on the report – he was circumspect. And, I felt a bit on notice. Ultimately, I was relieved; and delighted.

What is most important is, what are we going to do with the elements of this report? And what we need to do is talk about this – we can’t waste the platform or the momentum. Pun intended.

So, in closing, let me tell you more about where ACOA is leaning in. We are determined to demonstrate Atlantic Canada’s value proposition –internationally. As part of ACOA’s legislation, the Agency has an advocacy mandate that I
take seriously. And, we are going to push into that role. We will continue to bring support to small businesses and entrepreneurs to help them grow, scale, automate and innovate. But we can walk and chew gum at
the same time, so there is no reason that this Agency can’t be in the conversations that matter in the country.

You’ll hear more from us as we focus our energies around the transition to clean energy, air access, and digital transformation and productivity. I feel a responsibility to drive the narrative and profile our companies and our
changemakers across Canada, and globally.
We want the world to know how serious we are about the Atlantic Canada proposition. While we are named the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, I think the emphasis is on Canada and Opportunities – and the way we can lead.
If there’s one message you can count on hearing over and over again, it’s this: here are the industries we’re leading in. Canada, and the world, really does need more Atlantic Canada. My friends, Atlantic Canada’s future is promising! Thank you and have a great evening.

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