International Institute of Communications Canada Conference


Speaking Points

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


November 17, 2016

Check Against Delivery


Thank you for that kind introduction. And thanks to IIC Canada for inviting me to join you today.

Congratulations on putting together such an amazing event.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's an understatement to say we live in changing times.

Over the past half century, Canada has thrived; we have enjoyed rising living standards generation after generation.

But simply staying the course won't allow Canadians to maintain these gains.

Because today, Canada and other advanced economies face new pressures.

Global companies are becoming local competitors.

Climate change is reshaping the ways we meet our energy needs.

We will have fewer working-age people as our population ages.

And, with the help of all of you in this room, technology is rapidly changing and touching every aspect of our lives.

We need strong telecommunications and ICT sectors as we enter into what some are calling the fourth industrial revolution.

We're living with a pace and scale of change that's undreamed of.

But also daunting.

As a country we need to be on our game.

Especially if we want to compete internationally for the most talented people, the most groundbreaking technologies and the fastest-growing companies.

With the right plan, Canada can outperform the rest of the world.

Our government calls that plan the Inclusive Innovation Agenda.

Our vision is to make Canada a global centre for innovation.

Our mission is to create well-paying jobs to grow the middle class and raise the living standards of all Canadians.

At its core, the Innovation Agenda is about finding ways to do things better.

Which is also what your sector is all about: innovating in a digital world.

Today, the digital economy is the economy.

And we have you to thank for that.

So it follows that an Inclusive Innovation Agenda will be about helping people get the right digital skills and the right access to technology.

It will be about growing the economy and harnessing the power of technology in all sectors—from fishing and farming to mining and health.

And with our world-class communications infrastructure creating a platform for sustainable growth, it will be about discovering technologies that we can't even imagine yet.

That's the kind of input we got this summer from Canadians when we asked for their help in shaping the Innovation Agenda.

We also got advice from many of you in this room.

I thank you for that input.

We are developing the Innovation Agenda to focus on three main priorities.

First: Canada needs more people with the skills and experience to drive innovation.

Second: Canada needs to be more ambitious in harnessing emerging technologies to achieve big things.

And third: Canada needs to grow the next generation of globally competitive companies.

Digital is a common thread running through all of these priority areas.

Here's how I see it.

Priority: People

The first priority is people. We need people with the skills and experience to help Canada compete.

And we need to close the digital divide and give every Canadian the opportunity to get online.

No one should be left behind.

In 2014, only 64 percent of lowest-income households had Internet subscriptions.

Compare that to 98 percent of the highest-earning households.

We must address the needs of Canadians who could have access to the Internet but can't afford it.

We don't want schoolwork, job searches or ideas for new businesses to be stifled by geography.

We also don't want broadband and cellphone plans that are out of reach.

I'm thinking of Canadians who struggle to make ends meet.

Some providers have already taken steps to make the Internet affordable for low-income Canadians.

And I thank you for that.

These efforts must be expanded across the country.

We also need to do a better job of preparing people for a rapidly changing job market.

It's about digital literacy.

Skills training should start early and continue throughout a person's career.

Children as young as my daughters, who are six and nine, should have the opportunity to learn how to write basic computer programs.

Maybe it is an issue of not having the skills or the assistive technologies needed to get online.

We also need to ensure that university and college students have access to more work-integrated learning.

Programs such as internships, apprenticeships and co-op placements should be expanded across the country.

I recently attended the launch of a program sponsored by Shopify, an e-commerce company here in Ottawa, and Carleton University.

This initiative is the first of its kind in Canada.

It's a work-while-you-study program that allows computer science students to immediately apply the classroom concepts they learn in a real-world workplace.

Shopify even pays the tuition fees of each participating student, who earn a salary while working at the company over the course of their four-year undergraduate program.

This is co-op learning 2.0. We need more of them across Canada.

Meanwhile, mid-career workers should have more opportunities for continuous learning.

Today, nearly 900,000 Canadians are employed by the information technology sector.

But it is estimated that by 2019 there will be more than 180,000 additional jobs to fill.

In order to keep pace, Canada must prepare enough people with the right skills for the jobs of tomorrow.

Here at home, we need more people in science, technology, engineering and math.

Because the number of positions that require these disciplines will only grow.

We also need more women in these fields.

As a father of two young girls I have to say, no country can afford to leave half of its brain power on the sidelines.

Yet today, less than 1 in 3 computing and engineering graduates is a woman.

Innovation depends on good ideas.

And the bigger and more diverse the talent pool, the more good ideas emerge.

So I want to see more women, more young people and more persons with disabilities participating.

We need the talent of more Indigenous Canadians and new Canadians too.

The idea of social inclusion is so important.

More and more, we work, play and learn online.

Internet access is an essential part of our daily lives, and it affects all aspects of society.

At the international level, Canada can attract and retain global talent by increasing levels of immigration and simplifying processes.

We have already taken action here. In the recent fall economic statement, we announced Canada's Global Skills Strategy.

This strategy will make it easier and faster for us to bring in people with in-demand skills and international experience.

Priority: Emerging Technologies

The quality of Canada's existing wireline and wireless networks in our cities is a significant strength.

Our telecommunication companies invested more than $13 billion last year.

But this is a race—a journey, not a destination.

We cannot afford to rest on our current success.

For the cities of the future, networks are paramount.

We need to start planning and building networks that are ten times faster than the current standard.

We should be thinking not in terms of megabits, but in terms of gigabits.

The era of the smart city is dawning.

Interconnected municipal services will mean more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, not to mention improvements in our standard of living.

But this high-speed revolution can't be confined to cities.

Networks need to be extended out into remote and rural areas.

All Canadians must have access to the benefits that faster, next-generation networks can bring.

That's why our government provided $500 million in Budget 2016 to bring high-speed Internet to rural and remote communities.

And that's also why the second priority of our Innovation Agenda is harnessing emerging technologies to achieve big goals.

Goals such as being a world leader in advanced networks.

New services and technologies are driving demand for ever-increasing amounts of data.

In fact, mobile data traffic is expected to grow six-fold by 2020.

In particular, traffic from having a growing number of devices connected to the Internet could increase 24-fold over the same period.

Those numbers are staggering.

And all of these technologies will need more spectrum and more network infrastructure.

So our regulatory framework and spectrum rules must have the right balance between competition and investment.

Throughout our consultations, Canadians across the country told us that vibrant telecommunications competition and choice are essential.

This is about Canadians benefitting from what a healthy and strong competitive marketplace brings.

The right spectrum for the right application at the right time is also key to wireless innovation.

So we're taking an innovative and evidence-based approach to spectrum management.

This approach will include modernizing our tools in an era when not millions, but billions, of devices will rely on spectrum.

We will be conducting foundational research on new ways to use and manage it.

And we have already started the process of making a new low frequency band available for mobile use in the 600 megahertz range.

We want to see companies quickly adopting new technologies.

And we want to see aggressive pricing coupled with innovative services to maintain high levels of consumer satisfaction.

We also want Canada to be a leader in developing and using disruptive technology.

"5G" is the next new major phase of mobile telecommunications.

Here is an emerging field where we as a country can capitalize on our talents and develop world-class software and services.

The global market for 5G equipment and applications is estimated to be worth $36 billion by 2020.

Companies worldwide are investing in 5G.

By investing in the right technology and research infrastructure, we have an opportunity to position Canada on the leading edge of 5G.

We will focus on optimizing spectrum currently in use and unlocking additional spectrum that can be used for new mobile 5G services.

This approach will allow all Canadians to use next-generation technologies and participate fully in the digital economy.

Priority: Companies

The final priority of our Innovation Agenda is to grow the next generation of globally competitive companies.

And there is perhaps no sector with more promise to contribute to global scale-up than yours.

As I have said, the digital economy is the economy.

There is virtually no part of our world today untouched by communications technologies.

More and more, we're seeing the lines between sectors becoming blurred.

Traditional sectors are embedding emerging technologies, allowing them to evolve and adapt.

There is so much cross-pollination; the route to corporate growth is no longer linear.

I'm thinking of the marriage between autonomous cars and embedded software.

Between household appliances and cyber networks.

Or power grids and the Internet.

We are seeing telecom providers and technology companies wading into the banking sector.

And the need for robust cyber protection across sectors is driving the growth of a global cybersecurity market.

Simply put, technology and communications are playing a critical role in almost every sector.

Now, I know that many of you are already capitalizing on these partnerships.

But there is so much more opportunity for Canadian companies to stake claim in these emerging markets and become global leaders.

We are looking to you to be innovators and lead the way.

On the government side, purchasing power can be a powerful driver of innovation—we see this happening among our competitor nations.

The entrepreneurs I've heard from wonder why Canada can't do the same thing.

They tell me it makes a huge difference when the government is an early adopter of innovations.

When they can point to our government as a marquee customer when they pitch new clients.

Our government is prepared to be a meaningful partner in this area.

We can set aside a portion of our resources to support firms with the most innovative solutions.

And we can streamline government programs to make it easier to take innovations from lab to market.


Ladies and gentlemen: Our government is prepared to do its share to drive economic growth through innovation.

To achieve this goal, our government is prepared to think big, aim high and act boldly.

We imagine networks ten times faster than the current standard.

We want to close the digital divide and give all Canadians access to broadband.

We want all Canadians to benefit from a competitive marketplace with affordable and innovative services.

So I'm looking to you, the men and women in this room, to help us take on this challenge.

We need to see more investment in technology and more investment in people and training by companies like yours.

Your participation is crucial. You have to do your part!

I invite you to be part of the solution.

Be part of the Innovation Agenda.

Thank you very much.

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