Launch of the Pearson Centre's Economy for Tomorrow Series, Toronto Region Board of Trade


Speaking Points

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, PC, MP
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Toronto, Ontario

March 14, 2016

Check Against Delivery

Wow, it's a nice turnout on a March Break. First of all, I just want to say it truly is an honour to be here today. I actually pinch myself every single day because approximately 45 years ago, my father landed in Toronto with five dollars in his pocket. And he not only lived the Canadian dream, but he also instilled the importance of hard work in me, so I'm indebted to him and to Canada, and I'm honoured to be standing here before you today.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Andrew for the kind words.

And I want to thank all of you, as I said, for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here. It's good to be home around so many of my friends and colleagues. It's great to see the Ryerson family here as well, so it's an absolute delight.

And it's also great to see some of my colleagues here from the House of Commons. I think they mentioned Omar, who's my workout buddy.

Francesco, who always confuses me with the Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan. It's great to see— I think Ali was here as well from Willowdale, or should be here. And Majid, who sits on the Industry Committee, or INDU as it's known. Iqra should be here as well. And it's great to see Gary from— representing the east end, as we call Scarborough. So nice to see you.

And Celina, it's great to see Celina here. She is absolutely a pleasure to work with. She represented Canada with great distinction in Washington a few days ago, and it's great to see her. 

I'd like to also thank the Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy, which, as mentioned, I had the privilege of serving as an advisory board member. And it's interesting: since I left, it's done really well. And so maybe that's indicative, and I've heard the same thing about Ryerson as well. But it's great to see the Centre come a long way in such a short period of time. And I truly do support your vision of progressive, centrist and modern public policy that combines economic success with social responsibility.

And of course, I'd like to thank the Board of Trade, which worked so hard to bring us all together this afternoon. This place brings back a lot of good memories for me, and I had the opportunity, actually, to work through Ryerson and the board to talk about, you know, diaspora networks, to talk about how we can really leverage our diversity and be competitive globally. So it's great to be here.

And I very much look forward to our discussion this afternoon about the economy alongside such distinguished guests as, of course, our hostess and moderator Sandra, Sheldon, Dr. Ilse and Stephen. So it's a great group that's been assembled to talk about a very important subject.

I'm here today as the first minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

And it was a pretty cool first week, I must mention, being the Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development. The first government announcement that we made was to reinstate the mandatory long-form census. It's about having good-quality, reliable data. And we also encourage our scientists to speak freely about their work because we are a government that believes in science.

My name— my new name reflects that our government recognizes that the global economy is changing and changing fast—particularly the scope and speed of change. That's absolutely phenomenal. There really is no such thing as a traditional industry anymore.

And while I'm no longer called the Minister of Industry, as mentioned a few times, it's not about turning our backs on manufacturing or the resource industries that still make up more than one fifth of our GDP. It's that we need to work with those Canadians and those companies that have fuelled growth in our country for so long to help them adapt their businesses and business models to what many are calling a new industrial age.

And that is why our government will focus on smart industrial policy that will help companies focus on adopting ICT [information and communication technologies] in order to digitize from concept to design to production.

I've seen this first-hand at the Digital Media Zone when I was at Ryerson, and I talked about it at length at the World Economic Forum. And just to make it clear, I've mentioned DMZ 424 times since I was elected.

We will also take advantage of the historic investments we're making in infrastructure and acquisition—and this is a very important word. There's a distinction between acquisition and procurement. Acquisition and procurement of ships, jets to leverage our industrial and technological footprint, to create strong Canadian brands that will succeed not only here in Canada but also globally, and be part of global supply chains.

And it's about recognizing the growth potential of emerging sectors like nano tech, artificial intelligence and clean tech, just to name a few.

As you know, our government is committed to addressing climate change and to being able to succeed in a low-carbon economy. That's a good thing. And that is why we doubled our commitment to renewable energy as part of Mission Innovation at COP 21 when we were there in Paris. And it's interesting to note that in the next five years, clean tech alone is expected to be a global industry worth more than $3 trillion.

So technology is driving the emergence of these and so many other new lines of business, and it's disrupting every aspect of the current business models as well as our personal lives.

And speaking of personal lives, while my girls are too young to have their own phones—thank gosh—they are certainly already handy with mine, and they're texting their friends. It stresses me out. It's March Break, I'm spending time with my girls, and you know, it's bringing back parenthood altogether.

Whether you're a manufacturer or a service provider, many of you know first-hand how your own markets and businesses are being disrupted by technology.

But what is disruption for some is pure innovation and opportunity for others. And our challenge in government is to respond to both. And as a government, we recognize how much this change is disruptive.

For example, in the past—and I worked for Ford Motor Company as mentioned, and great to see my colleagues here from Fort Motor Company—Ford had big buildings. That meant more employees and more jobs, but that's not the case now.

Take, for example, Netflix. It now only needs 2,400 employees to deliver content to its 70 million subscribers. With this dynamic business environment in mind, we need a plan, and we absolutely have a plan.

If you read my mandate letter—and you can Google it because our government is very transparent and open and we put our mandate letters out there for the public for the first time—you'll see that Prime Minister Trudeau has asked me to lead the development of an innovation agenda for Canada. And I truly am honoured to take on this challenge.

And what do we mean when we use the word innovation? This is the first question I asked my department. Innovation has been around since Confederation and certainly means different things to different people.

But it's actually quite simple, as I've heard from round tables and numerous discussions with various business leaders across the country when we're talking about innovation, and of course I've heard this from academia as well.

At its core, I see innovation as a mindset.

It's daring to dream; to do something smarter, faster, better; to improve the status quo; to improve quality of life in whatever ways possible. Fundamentally, we're just trying to find solutions to big problems. So that also means social innovation.

So, for example, we have a significant challenge when it comes to an aging population and the health care challenges associated with that in Canada.

I had the privilege alongside the Prime Minister to attend an announcement at MaRS and GE where we made an investment to commercialize regenerative medicine.

It also means embracing the premise that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. It means understanding that some of our most important infrastructure is now digital infrastructure in the context of a knowledge economy, and it means moving beyond individual interests to see the collective opportunity.

We need to continue to foster R&D, which of course is very important. As mentioned by every metric, we're going in the wrong direction, particularly R&D with business enterprise, and we are seeing extraordinary high levels of cash on balance sheets for businesses.

We also need to launch new technologies and support scientific research, and we truly are committed to doing that.

I'm honoured to work alongside my colleague [Minister of Science] Dr. Kirsty Duncan, who is committed to this, and hopefully she'll be sharing some good news in the future with you. We need new and broader and more collaborative efforts to embrace the innovation opportunities that change brings.

Luckily, it's in our nature. It's the Canadian way: to collaborate to get things done. Federal departments and agencies work together. The federal government works with the provinces and territories, Aboriginal communities and municipalities; and governments work with businesses and organizations and academic institutions. And of course the Prime Minister has really set the tone on this when it comes to collaboration.

The ability to collaborate as teams across many interesting fields is a key catalyst, we believe, in the innovation process.

I've seen this first-hand as I've had the opportunity to travel across Canada from the Volta Labs in Halifax and the Innovation Hub in Montréal, to the Nano Tech Institute in Alberta and the B.C. Technology Innovation Association and the Quantum Valley here in Ontario. Exciting new ideas are being brought to market.

That is why during the last federal election campaign we committed to creating a national network of clusters made up of incubators and accelerators.

And this is where I look to Sheldon Levy's leadership to really replicate the success we've seen here in Ontario across Canada to create ecosystems across Canada and really replicate the success of DMZ and MaRS and others as well.

It's interesting to note that we are really good at starting up companies. Actually, we're pretty good about it. We're probably one of the best countries in the world. Our challenge, though, is how do we help companies scale up? How do we help them grow and take advantage of opportunities globally?

A primary mechanism that we have for supporting innovation and economic development and growth at the regional level is our development agencies. This is an area where the government has brought some fresh thinking to bear.

Previously, each of these agencies was under the purview of a regional minister. For the first time, the Prime Minister asked me to take responsibility for all the agencies within my portfolio. That includes ACOA from Atlantic Canada, CEDQ from Quebec, WED from western Canada and CanNor from up north.

Just to give you an idea, they collectively represent approximately a billion dollars' worth of investments that are made in our communities across Canada. So as minister, my goal is to make it easier for them to collaborate and to share best practices.

In this way, we can better leverage their considerable on-the-ground expertise. In other words, we can make the whole much stronger than the sum of the individual parts to channel our resources to focus on innovation and really leverage these regional development agencies.

This new approach has its challenges. However, I truly believe that it's a breath of fresh air in how the Government of Canada supports regional economic development and elevates the importance of collaboration and partnership—two defining characteristics of the innovation age that we live in.

I strongly believe that effective collaboration is one of the best ways to drive innovation. It takes a team to push innovation from the research phase to the development phase to the point where it can be brought up to market to begin to improve people's lives. So it truly is a team effort, and that's one thing I wanted to highlight today.

To secure a choice position in the 21st-century global economy, Canada needs to be innovative.

We need to embrace science and the world of science, technology, engineering and math—which many of you know as STEM. My daughters and yours need to learn coding at an early age, not only to deal with the gender disparity that we have when it comes to this area but also to address the major skill shortage in the coming years.

We need to diversify our economy to enable growth prosperity across the board, and it's going to be a key part of our growth agenda.

I was speaking to members at my table about when I was in Alberta and had the opportunity to speak with a deputy minister there and the challenges that are being faced in Alberta, for example. Fifty percent of their budget is directly and indirectly connected with the oil and gas sector.

The fact is that they have royalties now as part of their operating budget, and there are challenges associated with that. So we truly need to diversify, not only in Alberta but in other parts of the country as well.

I saw first-hand how that really works well in British Columbia, where they truly have a diverse economy and they're able to leverage that and succeed and grow.

I also had the great opportunity to brag about Canada most recently in Washington last week at the state dinner.

That was the highlight of my career so far.

I had the opportunity to speak to the President about innovation, of course, and basketball and turbans. It was a pretty interesting conversation.

And it was funny because he was talking to me about the Somalian garb that he had worn and that he was attacked on in his first election. I said, actually, in Mississauga wearing the turban is not a bad thing.

When I was in Washington, I talked about the fact that we have one of the best-educated populations in the world, and that's a fact and we should be proud of that.

We have one of the highest university investments in R&D in the world. We represent 0.5 percent of the world's population, roughly, and we punch way above our weight by producing more than 4.0 percent of its publications.

That is a point of pride and we should be bragging about that.

We also have one of the world's best investment climates, so let's brag. Let's be proud of Canada.

That is why I agreed to host the Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the fall. ACE is a very important initiative because it will showcase Canadian innovation to an influential international audience. Let's bring the world to Canada.

We must also acknowledge that we are a respectful society and that this government is committed to a nation-to-nation relationship with Aboriginal people.

At the GLOBE Conference, which I attended a week ago, I announced the $5.4 million Indigenous clean tech fund. Its aim, again, fundamentally, is to build capacity, to build trust, to bring in Aboriginal leadership on innovation going forward.

We're also a welcoming society, and we understand and respect the value that immigration brings both to our economy and to our society.

The Prime Minister has been talking and bragging about our diversity. He did so at the World Economic Forum. I saw it first-hand at the GLOBE Conference and in the United States most recently. Fundamentally, ladies and gentlemen, it's about people, and we need to invest in people.

I just want to say today that you have a partner in the Government of Canada, the whole of government.

Just to illustrate that point, the innovation agenda that we are proposing and that we are working on and that we will unveil will not be simply my department or a department. It will include the whole of government.

Procurement is an example. As I said, we invest a lot of money in starting up companies, but how many of those companies have an opportunity— a procurement opportunity with the federal government? Very few.

We need to focus our procurement policies to target Canadian companies to allow them to validate their work, to validate their innovation, so they can succeed not only here in Canada but, as I mentioned before, also globally.

Immigration is also important. In every jurisdiction I've been to, and for every business I've talked to, particularly in Atlantic Canada, the first priority by far compared to any other issue is immigration.

They want people. They need people for technical skills. They need people they can sell products to. They're looking for people to run their companies, to help them scale up. They're looking for C-Suite individuals. So we need to make sure we have robust immigration policies that help with their innovation agenda.

I briefly mentioned health care. We're dealing with an aging population. If we keep on spending money on the current entrenched interests, we'll get the current outcomes that we're seeing. So how do we drive change? How do we deal with an aging population? We need to invest in health care innovation. And that is why [Minister of Health] Jane Philpott has made this part of her mandate.

And of course I have the pleasure and privilege of working with Chrystia Freeland, who is the chief marketing officer for Canada, the Minister of International Trade. And again, she is one of the best salespeople I've seen. She's out there bragging about innovation, and about Canada.

So again, this is going to be a whole-of-government approach when it comes to innovation. And we are committed to working with the provinces and territories. And together, we can build on these strengths.

The innovation agenda I want to lead involves all of us, as I mentioned, so not only government but also business and academic, non-for-profit, and Aboriginal leadership.

We all have a role to play. Our task is urgent and the rules of the global economy are changing, evolving every day, and the nature of international trade has fundamentally changed as well.

Thanks to international trade agreements, global supply chains and e-commerce, global companies can now be local competitors.

As the world has seen time and time again, innovation waits for no one. If you're not at the leading edge, you'll be left behind. And I know that, together, we can lead.

As my father taught me to work hard, I want to teach my daughters to work smart because it's not about working harder for less, it's about working smarter to earn more.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

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