Speech from Minister Jean-Yves Duclos at the 10th Social Finance Forum held at Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District


Toronto, Ontario
November 10, 2017
Check against delivery.

Good morning, everyone.

First of all, I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Métis and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation people.

Thank you to the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing for inviting me here today.

And thank you for your accomplishments in the field of social finance. You play a key role in the growth of the Canadian impact investing market.

I’m thinking for example of the social impact bond which was launched at this event last year and developed by MaRS in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. This initiative is helping 7,000 Canadian seniors by reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease due to hypertension.[1]

This is no small feat!

I also want to express my sincere congratulations to the recipients of the Social Finance Awards. Bravo for your visionary leadership.

We are gathered today at the MaRS Collaboration Centre – the perfect place to discuss the future of social finance.

 To begin, I want to quote the great Martin Luther King, who once said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’”[2]

Every day, each of you works to help others, so I know you would all easily be able to answer this question.

I see before me social entrepreneurs, global thought leaders, investors, government representatives and educators. But whatever your expertise or field of interest, you are all driven by a common goal – the need to find innovative solutions to help lift up your communities.

You are well aware that collaboration with new partners, testing creative ideas and the impact of these initiatives can improve the quality of life of our most vulnerable citizens in a concrete way.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to express my gratitude for your exemplary collaboration.

Like you, we recognize that Canada still faces very complex and deep-rooted challenges like chronic unemployment, homelessness and social isolation.

These are challenges that cannot be easily resolved using traditional approaches or by any single level of government.

This is why we always need to be looking for creative ways to solve problems, working with the biggest brains and the biggest hearts in the private, not-for-profit and public sectors, and listening to people with lived experience.

And, like you, our government wants to take action and bring innovation to the forefront.

Over the last few years, my department has explored social innovation and social finance as a way to improve the efficiency of our programs.

New types of partnerships and approaches have already been tested, such as social impact bonds, microloans, performance-based pay and support for social enterprises.

Since 2014, many Employment and Social Development Canada grants and contributions programs have launched calls for proposals for innovative projects – including the Homelessness Partnering Strategy and the youth employment program Skills Link.

We want to build on this momentum. And rest assured that we want to do so in a concrete way.

That is why we are working to develop a Canadian Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy.

We need to create new, better, more efficient ways to help the most vulnerable Canadians.

When I say “social innovation” and “social finance” I am talking about new ways to solve big problems, helping those most in need.

Once it is completed, this strategy will help us:

·       use innovative approaches;

·       build Canada’s social finance marketplace;

·       create a favourable environment for social enterprises; and

·       foster partnerships.

The overall objective is to face social challenges and deliver measurable results for Canadians and communities.

This past June, a Co-Creation Steering Group was appointed to bring together some of Canada’s brightest minds on social innovation and social finance.

Several members of this group are present here today and you had the opportunity to hear from some of them yesterday. I would like to acknowledge them and thank them once again for their service.

I know the Steering Group has been working hard in the past few months thinking about how to accelerate the growth of Canada’s social finance market through new initiatives, such as establishing a wholesale investment fund.

Not only has the Steering Group been exploring how the Government of Canada could make more of existing regional social finance investment funds, but also how to leverage newly developed partnerships across Canada.

We know that easier access to regional funds could help community organizations test innovative approaches.

The Steering Group is also working towards an approach that would respond to community and regional priorities, while mobilizing resources for nation-wide challenges – and looking to learn from the best international practices in this area.

In other words, the objective of this approach is to help accelerate the growth of Canada’s social finance market, while building on the distinctive strengths of regions and communities across the country.

They seek a made‑in-Canada approach that will help build on the existing ecosystem of supports for those entrepreneurs and organizations on the “demand side” of social finance.

They are actively exploring initiatives to improve the capacity and skills of community organizations interested to make use of social finance, and they have ideas for strengthening the knowledge and data infrastructure that will be needed for Canada’s social finance marketplace to succeed.

And I believe that all of you, gathered here today, can help us achieve that objective.

In fact, your invitation to this Forum comes at the perfect time.

You see, the Co-Creation Steering Group recently launched an online consultation process.[3] And the goal is to hear everyone’s ideas, including yours.

We want to hear your ideas.

We need your cooperation to develop a truly effective strategy. You are in the best position to talk about social innovation and social finance.

It’s also a unique opportunity for you to change the way things are done in Canada.

We are all aware that social innovation, social enterprise and social finance have been applied successfully in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom.

Now, it is Canada’s turn.

The Government of Canada is committed to developing a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy – not simply for Canadians, but with Canadians.

The bottom line is very simple: we are looking for more creative solutions to our tough social problems. By working together, and working differently, we can create a win‑win situation – one where we help our economy and our most vulnerable, including Indigenous people, youth at risk, women fleeing violence, socially isolated seniors, and the homeless.

We want to hear your most promising ideas for growing an ever more diverse, vibrant and impactful market for social finance in this country, building on the most successful practices and institutions in our communities and regions.

And you have the power to help us make this change. You have an important opportunity to have your say.

So I ask you to take part in our consultation process. Help us move in the right direction. Only by collaborating with partners like you will an effective Strategy be possible.

When we work together and mobilize everybody around a big challenge, we are more likely to solve it. When we bring everyone to the table, we can deliver better results for Canadians.

I started by quoting Martin Luther King. I will end with another of his quotes: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”[4]

It’s clear to see that you have all made your choice.

In a world that seems to focus on consumerism, your presence and everyday actions show that giving priority to the greater good is in fact possible.

I wish you all the best for the rest of the Forum, and I thank you again for your commitment to Canadians all across the country.

Thank you.

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[1]  http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/minister-of-health-announces-social-impact-bond-for-heart-and-stroke-health-599024391.html

[2] Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth137105.html.  

[3]  https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2017/09/canadians_are_invitedtosharetheirideasonthedevelopmentofasociali.html

[4] Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth132188.html.

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