Americas Competitiveness Exchange: Evening Remarks

Speech

Speaking Points

The Honourable Bardish Chagger, PC, MP
Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Evening Remarks

Waterloo, Ontario

September 28, 2016

Check Against Delivery

Good evening, and thank you, Bob [Bob Crow, Executive in Residence, Institute for Quantum Computing], for that kind introduction.

Welcome to the Institute for Quantum Computing here at the University of Waterloo.

As you will find out tomorrow, IQC has played a key role in developing our region's well-deserved reputation as Canada's Quantum Valley.

But that's tomorrow's agenda, and I don't want to spoil the fun.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are convening at an important moment.

Many countries in the hemisphere are facing serious economic and political challenges.

There is low growth across the board, global demand is subdued and productivity remains a challenge.

The fact is Canada is no exception.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that we have the strength, the resilience and, most importantly, the brainpower to forge a brighter future.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

With just a little over 500,000 people, it's not the biggest municipality in Canada. But it brings together a critical mass of established anchor tech companies, innovative start-ups, academic and research excellence, not-for-profit know-how and, perhaps most importantly, lots of hard-working Canadians.

It's funny. Growing up here, attending school here, graduating from the University of Waterloo right here, I knew it was a relatively small, but very special, place. What I perhaps didn't fully apprecitate is just how important this region is to North America and, in particular, to the entire tech community.

Because we may be small in size, but we're huge.

Sometimes we, as polite Canadians, don't like to acknowledge that fact. But I'm never shy about showing my pride for Waterloo, whether it's in the House of Commons, across the country or here at home.

And I think we have a lot of knowledge to share.

Now earlier today, you heard from several University of Waterloo deans on STEM skills. You heard from Iain Klugman on scaling up at Communitech. And you heard from politicians who champion this region.

Like me, all of these people are passionate about Kitchener-Waterloo.

Over the years, they have learned the ingredients for success. It's a recipe that our prime minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, wants to share with the rest of our country and the world.

When addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, our prime minister asked: "Why does a Silicon Valley entrepreneur look to Waterloo as a great source of brilliant minds and brilliant ideas?"

He said it's because Waterloo "has high intellectual standards of course, and it values entrepreneurship. But," he added, "diversity is its indispensable ingredient. Waterloo's students come from everywhere."

And, tonight, I'm going to share my take on the Waterloo recipe with you. Because I know—our government knows—the value of partnerships and collaboration.

In the end, it's about boosting entrepreneurship and strengthening our economies—across the hemisphere.

Waterloo's approach is built around entrepreneurship and innovation.

Critical mass

As I said, what we have here is a critical mass of anchor firms, post-secondary institutions and talent.

I'm talking about the Googles, the SAPs, the OpenTexts of the world.

We've got Wilfrid Laurier and Waterloo universities and Conestoga College, which all offer world-class co-operative education programs. In fact, one in every three students in this region is enrolled in a co-op.

Think about that for a moment. One in three students around us today is not just in the classroom but also on the job.

And one could argue that we also have the largest pool of math and computer science talent in the world.

But it takes more than having all these resources and this talent in one region, co-habiting the same space. Success comes from working together.

Take, for instance, Dematic.

This company, which does billions worth of sales annually, chose Waterloo to expand its supply chain management business.

The technology and engineering talent was too good to pass up.  

Since opening its office here in 2014, Dematic has gone several steps further to strengthen its ties to our community.

First, it established an engineering scholarship at the University of Waterloo.

It is working on two research projects with the university, funded by the federal and provincial governments.

And it has become a key supporter of the university's co-op program.

This kind of symbiotic relationship is what fuels entrepreneurship in Waterloo.

We believe this is what the rest of our country needs more of. What the world needs more of.

And we are happy to share our experiences with you.

Clusters

The end game here is the development of an innovation cluster. That's where a region—any region—can really gain momentum.

Here in Waterloo, our innovation cluster is formed with partners from Kitchener, Toronto and Hamilton—and all those communities in between.

It's formed with research centres like the Perimeter Institute, IQC and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, among many others, in partnership with the local academic institutions I spoke of.

It's about marshalling resources.

We've got the anchor firms feeding in. We've got the schools. We've got the research institutions.

And as a minister who has a special place in her heart for our Canadian entrepreneurs, let me proudly say that what pushes a region into cluster status is entrepreneurship. I'm talking start-ups and scale-ups.

At any given time, the Waterloo region is home to about 1,100 active start-ups.

Many of them get their start in some pretty great incubators and accelerators.

You visited Communitech today, so I don't have to tell you just how amazing the energy is there.

We've also got Velocity, the largest free start-up incubator in the world. And the Accelerator Centre, which just announced its biggest graduating class in its 10-year history.

The Government of Canada recognizes the inherent value of such groups.

We equip fledgling start-ups with many of the resources needed to scale up—resources they wouldn't otherwise have access to.

These investments are targeted and strategic.

Their purpose is to make sure the best ideas have a chance to shine.

That's why we've earmarked $800 million to support world-leading innovation networks and clusters over the next four years.

The goal is to have transformational rather than incremental impact.

Diversity

Before I finish up, I just wanted to say a few words about what our prime minister calls Waterloo's "indispensable ingredient": diversity.

I am proud to be part of a Cabinet that is reflective of Canada's diverse population.

It's a value our government respects strongly—and not just because it's the right thing to do but also because of its economic benefits.

Justin Trudeau says it best.

He says, "We are strong not in spite of our differences but because of them."

As the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, I deal with a lot of statistics.

The one that stands out the most to me is 15.5 percent. That's the percentage of SMEs that are owned by Canadian women.

Fifteen-and-a-half percent: that's not enough. Not nearly enough. Especially when you consider the labour force participation rate for most women in Canada has risen to 82 percent.

Women are critical to our economic prosperity and competitiveness.

Recognizing this, I signed a memorandum of understanding between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico back in June.

This agreement will promote entrepreneurship among women and the growth of women-owned enterprises in North America.

Our government is also examining ways to get more women involved at the grassroots level.

The same can be said for encouraging more young people, more Indigenous people and more Canadians from all other under-represented groups.

Because our demographic should be reflected not just around the Cabinet table but around boardroom tables too.

I encourage you to carry this message back home.

We will only get stronger if everyone participates.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, there it is.

Most good recipes are made up of many ingredients coming together—working together—to create something that is greater than just the sum of their parts.

That's what we have here. And the best part is that it's something not bound by geography.

Every country—every region—has the potential to do what we're doing right here.

I hope you'll take some of what you've heard today back home with you.

Because we can all learn from each other.

What works, what doesn't and where we can go in the future.

Please accept my best wishes for success on the rest of your tour.

Thank you.


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