Canadian Women's Entrepreneurship Conference


Speaking Points

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

Toronto, Ontario

November 9, 2016

Check Against Delivery

Good morning, and thank you all for coming.

It's my pleasure to welcome you to the 2016 Canadian Women's Entrepreneurship Conference.

Thanks to everyone who has taken time out of their busy schedules to come here today to join us and work together on this great project.

I am thrilled that my Cabinet colleague, Minister of Status of Women Patty Hajdu, is here with us today. You will have access to her throughout today, and I know there's been a series of meetings lined up. This is something that we've been working on together so that today could happen.

Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, we have been taking a whole-of-government approach, so when we're talking about small business, it's not just about one portfolio but about every single portfolio. It's about every single department. And I have to say, we're starting to work in the right direction. And I'm also excited because we will have other members from our caucus and from the House of Commons joining us throughout the day, so do take a moment to say hello. 

And I'm really excited to have our business leaders and aspiring business leaders here. I've had the opportunity to speak to many of you, and I'm looking forward to the conversations and the discussions we'll have. I believe the future looks bright.

And I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge our American friends in the audience, including representatives from the U.S. Consulate General here in Toronto. They're a terrific resource for answering questions related to investing in or exporting into the United States.

Plus of course, we need to talk about what happened last night. As the Prime Minister mentioned in his congratulatory statement, we always look forward to working closely with our cousins to the south. They are our number one trading partner—and as the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, I can tell you that they're my number one market when it comes to people visiting Canada.

Next year will be the150th anniversary of Confederation, and instead of celebrating for one day, we'll be celebrating every single day. So my challenge to you—above and beyond what we'll be doing today—is to visit all 10 provinces and all three territories. Get to know this nation, because if you ever want to experience the world, you can do it right here in Canada. 

First, I want to talk about the business owners I have met in all different sectors and in all different regions of the nation.

Since being named Minister of Small Business and Tourism just a little over a year ago, I have travelled and met with women business owners as well as the organizations that support and advocate for them. And I have heard some common themes: how do we open more doors, and how do we get women to walk through them? How do we help women take the leap and, when they do, how do we ensure that they have the tools they need to soar?

I know one thing: the business landscape is changing and it's going to change even more. We have an opportunity now to put our heads together and get it right. That is what today is about.

Together, we will build the first federal women's entrepreneurship strategy.

Together, we can make sure glass ceilings are something taught in history books along with the suffragette movement and the Persons Case.

But we have our work cut out for us. The numbers speak for themselves.

Let's run through some of them.

15.7 percent.

That's the percentage of small and medium-sized businesses that are majority-owned by women.

15 percent…that's not enough. Not nearly enough. Especially when you consider that the percentage of women who want to start businesses in Canada is among the very highest in the world. We need to tap into this. And make it a reality.

Here's another fact—as if we even needed a statistic to tell us this: majority female-owned SMEs are just as likely as male-owned SMEs to improve their goods, strengthen their production processes, be innovative, and come up with new ways to sell their goods and services.

You can see that there is untapped female potential in our entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Women make up 48 percent of the workforce yet hold only 20 percent of all Canadian board seats. In a Catalyst survey from 2013, 40 percent of companies had no women at all on their boards.

So I ask you: how can we unlock this great potential?

Let me tell you about the work we've done to date.

Our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on women entrepreneurship with me and Minister Freeland at the North American Leaders' Summit in June. I was proud to be part of this historic step.

With the U.S. and Mexico as partners, the MoU commits Canada to increase our efforts to facilitate women's access to lucrative North American and global value chains.

Our government has also taken action to modernize our federal corporate governance laws so as to encourage greater gender balance in corporate C‑suites.

That's why Minister Bains introduced Bill C-25 in the House of Commons.

C-25 will require federally incorporated and publically traded businesses to tell shareholders about the gender composition of their boards and senior management and to provide other information about inclusion.

We are sending a clear message to corporate Canada: women can no longer be shut out of the boardroom.

I'm proud to be part of a government that is introducing this kind of legislation.

Now I know that many women—in fact, most women—are not running large companies where this is an issue.

So, what are we doing to help those women? The ones like many of you who constitute the backbone of our economy.

I, for one, think that we can do more. Let's start with the Business Development Bank of Canada, or BDC. It is doing tremendous things to help women entrepreneurs. And as our Prime Minister often says: better is always possible.

One of the things we heard is that BDC could bring more of a women's focus to its business practices. That it could play a pivotal role in increasing access to capital for women entrepreneurs in particular to position women-led firms for future growth.

And I agree. As a Crown corporation, BDC should be a leading financial institution supporting women entrepreneurs. And that's our goal.

In this vein, I am pleased to announce that after discussions with BDC's leadership, they have decided to conduct a full user-centred review of their processes from the perspective of women entrepreneurs. 

A better understanding of a client's journey from a woman's perspective will provide invaluable insights into how BDC can tailor its approaches. Engaging stakeholders in the review will ensure your voices are heard and grow BDC's reputation as an open and engaged organization.

There is also a real opportunity for BDC to bring its experience and services to bear in engaging with women's business support organizations across Canada.

These steps will fundamentally change the way BDC does business with woman—and there's more.

At the same time as this review, BDC is advancing a number of other proposals.

First, the Bank is well on its way to meet its commitment of investing $700 million in women-owned businesses over three years.

In fact, after 17 months it has funded almost $375‑million worth of projects. In addition, the number of majority-women-owned-business clients jumped almost 11 percent over the same time period.

This is major progress. I love it.

And today I'm also pleased to announce some more good news.

The BDC's equity arm is introducing new initiatives designed to help women entrepreneurs tackle their biggest challenge: raising capital.

There is going to be a new $40-million BDC internal fund launched by the end of the year. And what's exciting about this—other than the money—is that the fund will target women founders and be led by women investors.

I think that makes a lot of sense.

BDC wants to help support and grow the number of women in technology fields. Although men still outnumber women in these fields, the gender balance is shifting. We want to support these young women in starting and growing technology companies.

The Bank is injecting $10 million to form a new women's seed fund with the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund.

With this anchor investment, BDC will seek to raise additional capital from other interested investors.

With these initiatives, BDC is well on its way to becoming a world leader in easing the barriers for women entrepreneurs.

Together, with the leadership of this amazing institution, we will make BDC the global model for women entrepreneurs.

And let's be very clear here.

Let's be clear about why we're doing this.

It's not just so women have equal opportunities and a fair shake.

It's for all of us.

For our economy.

For our country.

For the world—really.

Because what we're doing here in Canada isn't meant to be kept a secret.

We know when we include everybody, we get things done.

Our Prime Minister knows that.

It was just over a year ago he chose a gender-balanced Cabinet.

A Cabinet that reflects our nation and looks like our nation.

He chose inclusiveness.

And what did we get?

A Cabinet that has lived Canadian experiences and knows what Canadian priorities are.

In the first year since receiving the honour of being elected to form government, we have cut taxes for the middle class.

We drastically increased benefits for the families who need it the most through the tax-free Canada Child Benefit.

We signed and ratified the comprehensive agreement on climate change—the Paris Agreement.

We have welcomed nearly 33,000 Syrian refugees into our Canadian family with open arms.

We brought together all of the provinces participating in the Canada Pension Plan and got them to unanimously agree to improve retirement security in this country.

We are launching an Innovation Agenda that will ensure Canada is a leader in the global economy in the 21st century.

Ladies and gentlemen, the list goes on.

What I'm saying is that our Prime Minister chose a Cabinet that looks like Canada not for the optics—and when we open doors for women it's not out of sympathy—but because we know that when we are inclusive, we get things done!

15.7 percent of businesses majority-owned by women.

20 percent of the seats on corporate boards.

40 percent of corporations without any women on the board.

Come on.

We haven't even fully tapped the potential of this room, never mind the country's!

So, today, as we are participating in conversations—hearing from inspiring, successful people—let's keep in mind why we are here, what we're talking about, and why we're talking about it.

And so, I look forward to exchanging best practices and solutions with you.

Again not for our sake but so that our whole country and economy can reach their potential.

Please don't hesitate to track me down today.

I want to hear your ideas on how we can fully develop the untapped potential of women entrepreneurs in Canada.

Also, as I'm sure you have questions about these new BDC funds announced today, please send them along through our app, and we'll be answering as many as we can in a question and answer period later today with BDC.

I thank you so much for being here. Get to know each other. Let's recognize our challenges, overcome those barriers and make the strides we were meant to make. Let's get this started.

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