Innovation Nations: An Exciting New Chapter


Speaking Points

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

Toronto, Ontario

June 11, 2016

Check Against Delivery

Introduction and Acknowledgements

Good evening, everyone. What a crowd!

Thank you, Sanjay [Sanjay Makkar, President, Indo‑Canada Chamber of Commerce], for inviting me to join in the fun tonight.

A warm welcome to my parliamentary colleagues.

Wow, I see so many familiar faces in the audience tonight. It is a real pleasure to address such a distinguished group of business people.

For nearly four decades, the Indo–Canada Chamber of Commerce has been forging critical people‑to‑people ties between Canada and India. These are the human links that bind countries and strengthen our ties.

As the Chamber prepares for its 40th anniversary in 2017, I am most grateful for its persistence in moving the Canada–India partnership forward.

Family Ties

And that partnership is deeply personal. I imagine that many of you are here today thanks to sacrifices made by your families.

Anyone who has heard me speak before will know how I respect my father's enterprising spirit in choosing Canada as our home.

I am also very much defined by the sacrifices my mother made in our early years here. She used to work at a cookie factory to bring in extra money for the family. She would work the overnight shift so she could be home before I went to school in the morning.

This was for two reasons: first, of course, she wanted to send me off with a good breakfast in my belly.

Second, she wanted to be there to comb my hair. You see, my mom was worried that I would abandon Kesh and cut my hair if left to care for it myself. She made these sacrifices so that I could maintain my culture while still fitting in at school.

As you can see, it worked. I stand before you today as an Indo‑Canadian Cabinet minister holding a major economic portfolio. And I am proud of my heritage and proud to be Canadian.

Canada and India: Innovation Nations

Prime Minister Trudeau has asked me to lead on a file that has major implications for the future of this country: innovation.

With this evening's theme of "transform and transcend," the imperative to innovate is obvious.

And when we're done here tonight, I want you to spread that message to your family, your friends and your colleagues. Let's bet big on innovation, together.

When I say innovation, sure, I mean technology and gadgets, new methods and inventions.

But I also mean something deeper than that. To me, innovation goes beyond wealth generation. I think of it as a social value because, if fully embraced, it really changes the fabric of our society. It objectively improves our lives and well‑being.

My goal is for innovation to become one of our Canadian values—what we are known for around the world. Not just a polite people, but polite and innovative.

"Those Canadians, they have the fastest, best, most effective way of doing things, and they're so nice about it all." That's what I'm going for.

And I want India to benefit too. There is so much our two countries can offer each other. I foresee a future where Canada and India stand together as innovation nations.

Of course, this will not be an overnight achievement. It takes time to build that up. I'm proud to say Canada has already been doing the foundational work.

It began in 2004 with former prime minister Paul Martin, a former guest at this gala and my former boss. I had the privilege to serve as Mr. Martin's parliamentary secretary. It was his government that kick‑started comprehensive engagement with India on a number of bilateral issues, including reaching an investment agreement between our two countries.

In 2005, I had the privilege of joining Mr. Martin on an official visit to India. During that trip, we made significant progress in science and industrial technologies, announcing agreements on S&T cooperation; toward greater collaboration on a tsunami early warning system; and on improved visa and consular services to renew our commitment to promote cultural ties.

And, most notably for today's discussion, we announced the creation of the India–Canada CEO Roundtable that would help conclude a [Foreign] Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.

So Canada has history here. I'm proud of the fact that I have been involved since the beginning.

And I'm also pleased to say that the Government continues its work in this regard. It's something International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and I speak about often, and we continue to have those conversations that will benefit both of our countries.

Rising Economic Influence of India

Frankly, I can see no better innovation partner for Canada than India.

India is one of the strongest among the world's emerging markets. With Prime Minister Modi promoting economic reforms—including the Make in India initiative—the country is poised to become the world's third largest economy.

And it is a nation of young people. In fact, India has the world's largest youth population with more than half of Indians under 25 years old.

The country also has a booming middle class—that key driver of overall demand. It is estimated that by 2030 the country's middle class will reach close to 475 million.

Think of the great potential these future consumers, creators, inventors and entrepreneurs will play in shaping, expanding and deepening Canada–India ties.

Mutual Innovation Goals

So let's talk about that: the years to come. Where should the Canada–India innovation relationship be in the next 10–15 years? How will we transform and transcend?

When I met with High Commissioner [Vishnu] Prakash to discuss improving the Canada–India relationship, I suggested three main areas where, together, we could lead.

Clean tech

First, I see us as strong partners in clean technologies.

There's an international impetus to act on climate change and accelerate the transition to a low‑carbon future. We saw this in Paris, when Canada and India joined 193 other countries in agreeing to support a global low‑carbon economy.

We need to ensure that more and more growth is clean growth. We must adopt clean tech across all sectors of the economy.

Canada is a perfect partner for India as we work to achieve these goals. Take the example of Markham‑based NOVO Plastics. This is a green company that specializes in reducing CO2 emissions and improving fuel economy in vehicles. While its New Delhi office focuses on sales, engineering and strategic alliances, I was delighted to hear NOVO will begin producing and selling the world's first plastic exhaust system in India. 

Fintech and cybersecurity

In this digital age, I also see a lot of opportunity for collaboration on financial technologies. Canada's fintech industry is thriving.

Of course, Indian contributions in software, web technologies and business process outsourcing are extensive and well known. However, when it comes to cybersecurity, there are very few indigenous contenders.

And whenever I speak with my Indian counterparts, this is a huge concern. Mobile security especially, since over 95 percent of India's users depend exclusively on mobile phones for connectivity. What's more, this will become even more serious—and a major focus area for the Indian government—with the rollout of mobile banking nationwide.

I really see opportunity here for Canada and India to partner. Big players are already on the ground in India. For example, CGI, Canada's largest IT and business services company, employs about 9,500 software professionals in India, mostly in Karnataka. Or another example: Vancouver‑based Absolute Software, which has a distribution partner in New Delhi for its security solutions.

But still I see more space for other Canadian companies to grab a portion of this growing market.

Human capital

The last great strength for us to leverage in the coming years is our people. The Indo-Canadian diaspora is over a million strong. And we all have bonds with India—friends, family, commercial ties.

But I'm not satisfied with just hoping that these connections are made and take hold. I want to actively engage this impressive talent pool and put people to work.

That is why today I can announce that in the coming weeks, we will be creating an advisory group on Canada–India economic relations.

This group of active, smart, successful people will help facilitate regular discussion between the Indo‑Canadian business community and the Government. It will help identify and address barriers to trade and investment between our two countries. And, more broadly, it will work to better promote Canadian interests in India.

With a global economy that is fiercely competitive and increasingly interconnected through global supply chains, trade agreements and businesses seeking to expand, these types of people‑to‑people networks will keep the Canada–India partnership strong in years to come.

Also in this vein, I would like to mention the work that my colleague Science Minister Kirsty Duncan is doing to continue to grow research collaboration between us. With the number of Indian students choosing to study in Canada increasing every year, our talent pool has never been deeper or more valuable.

My Father, the Innovator

Ladies and gentlemen, I began with my mother, so let me finish with my father.

When he came to Canada in the early '70s, he had about five dollars in his pocket. Before he left, people in his village said to him, "Really? You're hoping to succeed in another country with five dollars in your pocket?"

But he was ambitious. He was a risk‑taker and he believed in himself. And he knew that Canada was a country where if you worked hard, your children would have better opportunities than you did.

And that was the idea of Canada that motivated him and so many others like him. I'm sure you hear echoes of your own stories in my words.

And the result that I've seen is very clear. I've been blessed with opportunities he couldn't have even imagined when he came to this country. 

Now, I too am a father. I've got two beautiful young girls, Nanki and Kirpa, 8 and 5. And when I get up every day, I'm driven, as my father was, to do everything I can to give them the best possible opportunities.

This is the social side of innovation I was talking about earlier: making life better for all, Canadians and Indians alike.

Sure, we're looking to improve trade and investment, but what I really want us to work toward is having a meaningful impact on society.

But if Canada's going to be that place where our children can have opportunities to succeed and reach their potential, our responsibility is to make a bold bet on innovation.

Because, at the end of the day, innovation is the key to growth and a better quality of life. We've got to promote it as a core global value, not just a Canadian one.


So I'm relying on you, the men and women in this room, to reach out and make the most of your connections in the homeland.

Canada and India have so much to offer each other as we strive to reach our mutual goals. We owe it to ourselves, to our future and to the countries we leave to our children.

Thank you.

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