Sustainable Development Technology Canada Conference


Speaking Points

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

Ottawa, Ontario

April 20, 2016

Check Against Delivery


Your Honour; Minister Moridi, my colleague; members of Parliament Jonathan, Terry and David; colleagues; and friends.

It is a pleasure to be here with you today among Canada's leading thinkers, advocates, practitioners and early adopters of clean technology.

We are going to be working closely together over the coming months and years—all of us here—to help Canada realize its full clean technology potential

  • to improve the quality of our natural environment and our quality of life;
  • to ensure sustainable prosperity, good jobs and clean growth;
  • to enhance our global competitiveness; and
  • to create an environment where Canada is globally recognized as the "go-to" country for best-in-class clean technology products, services, expertise and solutions.

The central theme in all of this is that we are moving away from the traditional view that we have to choose between environmental responsibility and economic development.

We are choosing a new path—one that recognizes that innovation, whether in the development of new technologies, new processes or new business models, is essential in today's global economy.

Simply stated, innovation will be central to improving lives in Canada and around the world in the face of global trends characterized by disruption and change.

Leading Global Trends

First, there is a global impetus to act on climate change and to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future through the development and adoption of clean tech and digital technologies. A clean environment and strong economy go hand in hand and can be the source of new Canadian competitive advantage and resilience.

Second, the global economic climate is weak, with tepid demand and persistent volatility in the financial markets. This is driving a global adjustment, with slower growth prospects and growth potential. Canada must therefore re-examine its traditional approach to competitiveness, sustainable prosperity and well-being.

Third, the world has entered a new industrial age. Technology is completely changing the way people access information, buy goods and services, interact with each other and live in communities and cities. The Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, additive manufacturing and clean tech, as well as promising new areas such as regenerative medicine and quantum technologies, are reshaping sectors of the economy and people's jobs and lives.

Fourth, there are mounting concerns about rising inequality within and across nations, and louder calls to leverage technologies and innovation for social good are gaining momentum.

Social agents are creating new business and financing models and are using technologies to advance civil society goals.

We are at a historic and transformative time—one in which we can take advantage of the knowledge and experience we have in areas like traditional resource development, embrace the innovations that are taking place throughout our economy around new technology development, and secure Canada's place as a global leader.

Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

The opportunity is there, but it will take hard work and a collective effort to ensure success. Indeed, collaboration was the takeaway message from first ministers coming out of the Vancouver summit in March:

  • This is a partnership.
  • We need a pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change.
  • There is an urgency to act.
  • There is a role for all Canadians in achieving sustainable prosperity and responsible economic development.
  • And we will engage all Canadians, including the general public, industry, Indigenous peoples and other stakeholders, in the development of this plan.

The Prime Minister and the premiers have given this issue the attention it deserves. This is a whole-of-government priority that involves all of us.

Minister McKenna and her provincial and territorial counterparts have been tasked with developing options to shape the transformative climate change agenda we so urgently need, working together with Minister Morneau and his Finance counterparts on the matter of carbon pricing.

For my part, I'll be collaborating with my innovation and economic development counterparts in the provinces and territories who are overseeing the work on driving economic growth, creating jobs and fostering innovation across all sectors to transition to a low-carbon economy.

And Minister Carr and his provincial and territorial energy minister counterparts are focused on specific actions being undertaken through the Canadian Energy Strategy.

Taken together, this work will provide key input as we develop an innovation agenda for Canada.

Innovation Agenda and Budget 2016

Clean technology across all sectors of the economy and clean growth overall are central to my mandate to develop an inclusive innovation agenda. The underlying foundation of this new innovation agenda will be a commitment to creativity, diversity and collaboration.

I have spent considerable time since my appointment thinking and talking about how to make Canada more of an innovation nation. I have been speaking daily with Canadian and international business groups, leading thinkers and experts about how we can cultivate a culture of innovation and risk taking.

And I have been looking at how to do so in a way that ensures that Canada truly becomes a global leader in clean growth. Canada's new innovation agenda will build on our strengths in basic research and science and on our highly educated and skilled people. It will leverage our investments in digital networks and business frameworks that make it easy to start a business.

I want to pursue opportunities where we are primed to compete, such as in quantum computing—as the Prime Minister so eloquently explained the other day.

This is not about more of the same. And I certainly will not be commissioning any more studies about our innovation challenge—it is well documented! The agenda I want to bring forward is about inclusive innovation. It is about a commitment to work together—to continue to start up companies as we do so well, and now to grow more of them into high-impact medium and large firms and next-generation global companies.

Most of all, I want to ensure that innovation efforts are driven by Canadians for Canadians. Government is but one partner in a national effort that also requires leadership from the private sector, other governments, academia and civil society to move us in the direction of an innovation nation.

For our part, the government has made significant initial investments in innovation, clean technology and clean growth as part of Budget 2016:

  • Budget 2016 includes significant investments to support innovation, including $800 million to support networks and clusters to bring a critical mass of stakeholders together and connect their ideas to the marketplace.
  • It provides $400 million for clean technology development and innovation. This investment will position clean technology producers—both existing and emerging ones—to help tackle our most pressing environmental challenges and create opportunities for Canadian workers.
  • It also provides $1 billion over four years to support innovation and the use of clean technologies to build on our rich resource sector heritage. It supports sectors like forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture so they can embrace and adopt clean technology products, approaches and solutions to make them more sustainable, help them create jobs and keep them globally competitive.
    Stay tuned for further details about the allocation of this funding in the coming months as part of the Innovation Agenda.
  • Budget 2016 proposes to provide $2 billion over two years to establish the Low Carbon Economy Fund.
  • Budget 2016 also announced that the six regional development agencies will double their annual aggregate support for clean technology to $100 million per year.
  • And Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which I am so pleased to have now within my portfolio, has been endowed with an additional $50 million in funding to support the development and demonstration of new technologies that address climate change, air quality, clean water and clean soil.

Clean Technology Capacity and Opportunity

Let me be blunt: the pursuit of clean technology is not simply about environmental goals. Clean technology is about what makes sound business and economic sense. It's about our competitiveness and how we maximize our industrial and business knowledge to make Canada a leader in clean technology across all sectors of the economy.

And so our approach to innovation must be a broad one that includes products and processes, ranging from radical change to minor tweaks. And it must be one that encompasses every step along the innovation chain, from basic and applied research to development, demonstration, diffusion, deployment, learning and adaptation.

We need to take decisive action if we are to position ourselves as leaders in an increasingly competitive global clean technology market—a market that is forecast to grow to $2.5 trillion by 2022.

We have substantive clean technology strengths in Canada right now in areas like transport, recycling, recovery and remediation as well as in energy-efficient, green building technologies.

Yesterday's published report by Analytica tells us that that in 2015, we had almost 800 dedicated clean technology companies in Canada—that's on par with some of our biggest traditional sectors.

The report points to job growth in this sector, with 55,000 people currently employed, and it notes that clean tech is among our most R&D-intensive sectors, on par with biotech, pharma and information and communications technologies. And 87 percent of these companies are exporters. That's the kind of global orientation we want to see across all sectors of the economy.

And across all sectors, we know that this is just part of the story, with many more types of firms in Canada developing clean technologies as part of their product lines. Companies across Canada are developing clean technology, in sectors as diverse as resources, autos, chemicals, consumer products, machinery and software.

In 2004, the most recent year for which Statistics Canada data is available, 8,500 companies were offering environmental goods and services, generating $18 billion in revenue that year alone.

Yes, I did say Stats Can data from 2004—that's more than 10 years old. If governments are to invest in and support clean technology development and adoption across the economy, they need knowledge and metrics to make informed choices about policies, programs and services. That's why Budget 2016 directed new funding to support new work by Statistics Canada in this area.

Metrics and Performance

When it comes to clean technology invention, we are a good performer.

The World Wildlife Federation [WWF] ranks Canada as the 10th best of 40 countries in terms of emerging clean technology innovation.

That's the good news.

But we are only an average performer on commercialization and exports of clean technology.

Here, the WWF ranks us as 14th best of 40 countries.

More troubling, we are only an average to poor performer on clean technology adoption.

That's the paradox. We are good at creating stuff, OK at commercializing it, but poor at using it.

Making Progress / Framing Solutions

That has to change. And so one of our first priorities needs to be to increase domestic demand for clean technology. Why?

First, because becoming early adopters of clean technologies and solutions will help make our industries globally competitive.

And second, because increased demand at home will create more opportunities for our providers and suppliers of clean technology to develop and pilot new products and processes—products and know-how we can then showcase and market globally.

There are other tools at our disposal that could help.

Like ensuring regulations governments impose and the goods and services they directly purchase help inspire clean technology solutions and incent firms to become early adopters and innovate on their own.

After all, the public sector is the country's single largest employer, customer and landlord. And we can lead by example to boost demand for clean technology, support entrepreneurs and create clean jobs.

Clean Technology, Innovation and Jobs Working Group: Call to Engage

At the Vancouver summit, first ministers agreed to establish four complementary intergovernmental working groups—on carbon pricing, on mitigation opportunities, on adaptation and resilience, and on clean technology, innovation and jobs—that will report to me and my innovation and economic development counterparts in the regions.

All four working groups have been given a mandate to consult broadly and to report back in the fall with their prescription for a strong pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change.

In the coming days, we'll be launching a new interactive engagement website to solicit input to inform the deliberations of the four working groups and to serve as a focal point for awareness on climate change and clean growth.

I look to you to be active participants in this process of review, dialogue and reflection—to make your needs, priorities and preferences heard—because we are all in this together.

Everyone Has a Role

We should be clear: the clean technology agenda is in fact a whole-of-society initiative that requires a paradigm shift—one that is thankfully already under way, due in part to the leadership of those in this room. Collaboration, at all levels and among all players, will be key.

Consumers can and must help drive the sector's growth by insisting on clean technology alternatives and by pushing industry and governments to increase the adoption and uptake of clean technologies.

And Canadians must be able to make informed decisions on the environmental impact of what they buy or consume.

And if we get the incentives right, Canadians can also support the sector with their pocket books by investing in new and established companies at the forefront of the clean technology revolution.

Our universities, colleges and research centres—both public and private—also have a role to play. We need to ensure that the infrastructure and funding are in place to support the types of innovation the clean technology sector relies on.

And we need to know that we are graduating a community of researchers and creating a workforce with the right technical skills, engineering know-how, creativity and entrepreneurship savvy to grow the sector.

Companies across the economy must embrace the adoption of clean technologies to promote sustainable growth and compete globally. There is also a leadership role for environmental, business and consumer advocacy groups in making the business case for clean growth.

For example, the World Wildlife Federation's approach to clean certifications and its role in championing a global "cleantech" innovation index is doing more than just highlighting the need for responsible stewardship. It is offering practical tools to help make it a reality.

Here at home, the Smart Prosperity initiative, founded by leaders from business, think tanks, labour, Indigenous peoples, youth and NGO communities, is developing a road map to harness new thinking and accelerate Canada's transition to a stronger, cleaner economy.

Indigenous peoples are key partners in this endeavor. We have the opportunity to learn from traditional ecological knowledge, practices and adaptation strategies to help reduce the risks of climate change. We must also understand how Indigenous peoples' involvement in, and benefits from, clean technology can be improved.

As I said, we are all in this together.


I am confident that Canada will achieve the core clean technology and clean growth goals set out at the Vancouver summit. How?

  • By raising business and public literacy about the potential that clean growth offers so that we increase demand and grow firms here at home for clean technology products, solutions and alternatives
  • By helping Canadian clean tech firms scale up domestically and internationally, and by encouraging businesses of all sizes to invest in meaningful R&D
  • By adopting forward-thinking marketplace framework policies that promote and reward clean technology R&D, innovation and uptake
  • By championing smart standards and regulations that incent Canadian firms to create, commercialize and adopt clean technology
  • By investing in technical, physical and social infrastructure that will support a clean technology sector
  • And by making Canada—our firms, our institutions, our communities and our people—a global showcase for the positive changes clean technology and clean growth can achieve.
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