Remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister on securing Canada’s AI advantage


April 7, 2024 - Toronto, Ontario

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Good afternoon.

Let me start by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional territories of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat Peoples.

I am so glad to be home in Toronto today. We are in the community that I have the privilege of representing as a constituency MP. I am so glad to be here with the truly brilliant people at the Vector Institute. It was so inspiring for me to have the chance to walk around and talk to some of the really smart researchers, some of the really brave entrepreneurs doing amazing things here. 

To everyone who is here—you are brilliant, you are inspiring, you are changing the world in terrific ways, and I am grateful to you for your work. And that is what I want to talk about.

We are living in a pivotal moment for Millennials and Gen Z. These young Canadians have so much talent and so much potential.

They need to see and feel that our country can work for them—that the promise of Canada can still be reached. And we have a plan to help every generation of Canadians get ahead.

Today, many younger Canadians feel as though the deck is stacked against them. They can get a good job, they can work hard—but far too often the reward remains out of reach.

What many parents and grandparents have achieved for themselves—a degree of comfort, and security—we want for our children and grandchildren. We want their hard work to be rewarded, as it was for us.

And that is why we are acting now to build a Canada that works for younger Canadians—a Canada where they can get ahead and where their hard work pays off.

First, we’re going to turbocharge the construction of new homes across the country.

Second, we are going to make life cost less.

And third, we’re going to grow the economy in a way that is shared by everyone.

Our country works best when our economy is growing and when more opportunities exist—for every generation. To drive the kind of growth that will deliver prosperity for Canadians, we will use the budget I am tabling later this month to build on our efforts to increase investments, enhance productivity, and encourage game-changing innovation that will create well-paying, meaningful jobs and keep Canada at the global economic vanguard.

We’re backing ground-breaking industries so Canada remains on the cutting edge of the technologies of tomorrow, and the good jobs they will bring. We’re working to empower more of our best entrepreneurs and innovators to put their ideas to work here in Canada. We’re investing so our communities are great places to live, work, and raise a family. And we’re going to work harder and do more to open up new career opportunities for Canadians.

AI and the incredible opportunities it brings for the Canadian economy, for Canadian workers, is a key part of this effort.

Since the 1990s, Canada has been a leader in artificial intelligence and deep learning, and that is thanks to innovators like the “Godfather of AI”, Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, and Yoshua Bengio, as well as crucial early investments made by the Canadian government and provincial governments. But we can’t rest on our laurels, and we know that.

Today, we are seeing our allies, like the US, UK, and France, make significant investments in their own AI ecosystems. We cannot—and we will not—take Canada’s competitive advantage in AI for granted.

We know that now is the time for us as a country to double down on AI to make sure—with partners like the Vector Institute, like the brilliant people who are here with us today—now is the time to make sure that Canada stays in the lead.

That’s why I am truly pleased to announce that we will be creating a new $2 billion AI Compute Access Fund. Through this AI Fund, we will invest in made-in-Canada compute infrastructure to help support AI businesses and researchers.

Compute infrastructure refers to the hardware and software systems that are specifically designed to support AI technology—like machine learning and deep learning research, which the Vector Institute specializes in.

Currently, most compute infrastructure is in other countries, which is a barrier for AI firms and researchers. Through the new AI Compute Access Fund, we’re breaking through those barriers and ensuring that Canada is competitive in the global race to secure our AI advantage. Crucially, we are reducing Canada’s reliance on privately owned computing outside of Canada, that comes with security risks.

This investment in compute will encourage companies to invest and grow here in Canada—attracted both by our strong AI talent and research, which we so very clearly have here at the Vector Institute, and also by the underlying infrastructure that provides the backbone that literally powers this industry and this research.

Our investment will help spur growth in AI in Canada, including in the building of data centres.  For too long, these facilities have been built abroad—we want Canadian researchers and companies to be able to use Canadian supercomputers. 

When it comes to this work, Canada has many natural advantages. We have abundant and very clean electricity, and our government is investing to ensure we produce even more of it and that it is cleaner. 

We have skilled and experienced engineers to build the centres. We have the cold climate needed to help cool the supercomputers. We have the space to house these large facilities.  And we are geographically close to the world’s largest markets which have vast data processing needs. This is an area where we can—and must—and will compete.

Canada’s leadership in artificial intelligence also depends on ensuring AI is adopted across all sectors of our economy—like health care, manufacturing, and small business.

That is why we are also announcing $350 million to scale up the adoption of artificial intelligence across Canada’s economy.

Of this $350 million investment, $200 million will go towards supporting the adoption of AI across critical sectors like health care, agriculture, and manufacturing. For example, health care workers could use AI to improve the accuracy and speed of diagnoses—work that is happening right here, right now.

$100 million of this same investment will go towards helping small- and medium-sized enterprises in all parts of the economy introduce AI into their businesses, so they can use it for things like research, product development, and testing so they can become more productive—which will make it possible for them to pay their workers more.

And $50 million will go towards protecting workers in industries where AI is having a big impact—like e-commerce, finance, and even journalism—through the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program. The Program will help workers learn new skills so that they can use AI to their advantage in their respective industries. Because we want AI—we need AI—to be a tool that helps workers become more productive and therefore better paid—not something that displaces them.

I know everyone here today agrees that the success of these investments depends on making sure that AI is used safely and responsibly. Our government’s priority is to make sure AI is used in a way that improves productivity, creates great, new jobs, and improves workers’ lives by reducing repetitive tasks, so they can focus on more challenging, more creative work.

That‘s why we are investing $50 million to create a new Canadian AI Safety Institute. This Institute will work to help Canada better understand and protect against the risks advanced AI systems could pose.

These are really significant investments. Canada is staking our claim as a global leader in AI—today and for years to come.

We are building on really forward-looking investments this government has made, and we’re doing even more because we know that this is an essential part of Canada’s economic future.

We’re acting now—and acting with purpose—because the cost of inaction today would be borne chiefly by younger Canadians. We would be leaving them behind. And we cannot—we simply will not—do that. Instead, we will help them realize the promise of Canada with a responsible plan that creates new career opportunities and grows the economy for every generation.

This investment in AI is absolutely central to our economic plan to unlock the promise of Canada for young Canadians. Because to become more prosperous, we as a country need to become more productive. And AI is a powerful tool to do just that. And becoming more productive means higher salaries and more prosperity for everyone. 

Canada is a research leader in AI. Our government is investing to ensure that we are also a leader in cutting-edge AI companies and in AI adoption across the economy. This is an essential way to address our productivity challenge and it builds on Canada’s significant existing strengths. 

Our government first came to office with a vow to strengthen and expand the middle class. We delivered on that pledge by reducing poverty, especially for children and seniors, and creating millions of good jobs for Canadians. Our work isn’t over.

Our renewed focus today is unlocking the door to the middle class for millions of younger Canadians. In all we do, we dedicate ourselves to making a better life within reach for our younger generations. Because that is what you deserve—that is what you have earned. And it is what your parents and grandparents want for you, too.

Thank you.

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