Toronto Global Forum


Speaking Points

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

Toronto, Ontario

September 12, 2016

Check Against Delivery


Thank you, Ben [Ben Parent, Executive Director, Cummins Eastern Canada].

And thank you to the Toronto Global Forum for inviting me to address this distinguished audience.

Seizing the future

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here today to talk about how Canada can take control of its economic destiny in a low‑growth world.

We know the pressures facing advanced economies around the globe: aging populations and a rapidly changing world brought on by technology and globalization.

But low growth does not have to be our fate. We can seize the future and position Canada to outperform the rest of the world.

Our government recognizes that we have an important role to play in setting big‑horizon goals.

We are committed to partnering with the business community, our knowledge institutions and the rest of society to achieve those goals.

Goals that will lead to important breakthroughs that improve the lives of Canadians as well as people in countries around the world—breakthroughs that boost economic growth and help the middle class prosper.

We also believe that we must take a more active role in creating the right environment for companies to become global successes.

We want Canadian innovators to be export‑oriented.

We want them to have head offices here, conduct their R&D here and be part of global supply chains.

For example, Canada has pledged to make major reductions in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

We need to ask ourselves: What breakthroughs do we need to have in order to get there?

How can conservation and innovation go hand in hand to create jobs and address global challenges such as climate change?

Or take regenerative medicine as another example.

It was a Canadian team, just down the road at the University of Toronto, that discovered stem cells.

As a result, Canada is now recognized as a world leader in this field.

Experts in this country and elsewhere are on the brink of major discoveries that will transform medicine and create jobs that don't yet exist today.

This kind of mission‑driven approach to innovation is one idea we have heard from Canadians since I launched the Innovation Agenda, our government's plan to position Canada as a global centre for innovation.

The first and most important phase of developing our plan was to hear from Canadians themselves.

We had an extraordinary level of participation.

Over the summer months, we held 28 round‑table discussions with top leaders in business and research, many of whom are innovators in their own right.

Interested people engaged with our agenda in meetings or online more than 90,000 times. We received more than 1,300 ideas.

Talent drive

Besides the need for mission‑driven research, another key message we heard was the need for talent.

The need for more people in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math.

And in particular, we heard that more women, Indigenous people and youth should be encouraged to participate in these areas.

Currently, less than 30 percent of computing and engineering graduates are women.

Among Indigenous populations, the situation is even more acute. Indigenous people are greatly under‑represented among those with earned doctorates.

Less than one percent of those with STEM degrees identify as Aboriginal.

I firmly believe that diversity and inclusion in these areas is not just a social value or a moral imperative. It's an economic imperative too.

Good ideas can come from anywhere. The broader the background, the more innovations can emerge.

We also need youth who embrace creative thinking and are taught about entrepreneurship from an early age.

A key element to engaging youth is to offer them more internships, co‑ops and apprenticeships.

Continuous learning throughout the career span is vital for Canadians already in the workforce, right up to the executive level.

Entrepreneurs told us we need to make it easier for them to attract the best and brightest from around the world who are the best in their fields.

They made it clear to us that bringing in top talent does not take jobs away from Canadians.

It enables the start‑up of new companies and the scale‑up of others.

Federal support

Our government stands ready to be a meaningful partner in nurturing a pipeline of homegrown talent while attracting top international talent.

That's why, as a first step, we are investing $2 billion in the renewal of university and college campuses across the country.

As a result of these investments, students, professors and researchers will work in state‑of‑the‑art facilities that advance the country's best research.

They will collaborate in specially designed spaces that support lifelong learning and skills training.

They will work in close proximity with partners to turn discoveries into products or services.

In the process, they will train for—and create—the high‑value, middle‑class jobs of the future.

That's also why we are investing in the people who drive innovation through research excellence.

Our government's investment of $900 million will fund 13 university research projects.

These projects range from clean energy and brain research to astrophysics and quantum technology.  

As well, we will make significant targeted investments in super‑clusters that are hotbeds of innovation—$800 million over four years.

Another idea I heard repeatedly from Canadians during our consultations is the need to scale up businesses.

Entrepreneurs tell us that their first sales are often outside of Canada.

As the single‑largest purchaser of goods and services in the country, the government can play a constructive role.

We can support small and medium‑sized companies that have the most innovative solutions—not just the most cost‑effective ones.

In this way, we can help them develop a global market for their goods and services.

This is the kind of leadership that Canadians expect from their government.

Call to action

However, driving innovation will require all of society to be involved: consumers, researchers, non‑profit organizations, families, schools and businesses.

We need those of you here from the business community to step up.

Business spending on research and development has been going in the wrong direction.

Canada has slipped steadily to the point where we are 22nd among the 34 OECD [Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development] countries in business R&D.

In Canada, corporate spending per worker on information and communications technology is only half that of the United States.

And data suggest that employees in Canada receive less workplace training than those in many leading European countries.

I challenge you to invest in the people that will power our country to a bright and prosperous future with their innovations.

Take advantage of Canada's enormous strengths. Be part of the solution.

Fortunately, Canada has a proud history of innovation, and many exciting technologies and discoveries are being made across our country and in this city.

Just a few blocks from here is a start‑up called Nymi that has developed a security wristband that uses the heartbeat as a biometric identifier.

This wearable technology allows you to log onto computers, gain access to buildings and even pay for lunch.
A few streets over is Wealthsimple. This start‑up is transforming the way people invest, through its automated investment platform. It's making serious inroads with young millennial investors.

It's worth noting that the founder, Michael Katchen, says the strong entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Toronto helped lure him back from the U.S.

And here's a Toronto example that holds great commercial promise.

Last November, Hydrostor activated the world's first underwater system that stores energy.

Excess electricity is converted into compressed air and piped to a storage system at the bottom of Lake Ontario.

When demand for energy supply is high, the air is returned to the surface and converted back into electricity.

Those are the kinds of stories I love to hear. And we need to hear more of them.

Our future depends on these kinds of innovations.

Innovation imperative

Ladies and gentlemen, the need for innovation has never been clearer.

To solve social, environmental and economic challenges and to compete in a time of extraordinary and swift global change, we need to foster a confident nation of innovators. 

A nation that is globally competitive in promoting research and in translating ideas into new products and services.

A nation with the ability to accelerate business growth and propel entrepreneurs from the start‑up phase to international success.

As a country, we already have the building blocks for a thriving innovation economy.

We have a top‑notch education system.

We have stable banks, a triple‑A rating, a sound investment system and low federal debt.

We have a talented and diverse workforce.

We have low business taxes.

And we have a welcoming environment, modern cities, universal health care and a high quality of life.

Now we need to leverage those strengths to build a more innovative Canada.

I look forward to partnering with you as we seize that destiny.

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