The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, Speech to the Canadian Nuclear Association Annual Conference - February 23, 2017, Ottawa
Thank you, Kim [Kim Rudd, MP for Northumberland–Peterborough South and Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Natural Resources], and thank you for your incredible efforts promoting and supporting Canada’s nuclear industry — at home and abroad.
There is no better measure of your success than the warm reception you’ve received here this morning. I truly appreciate the work you’re doing and the difference you’re making.
I also want to thank Dr. John Barrett [Canadian Nuclear Association President and CEO] for his opening remarks, the insights he shared and his tireless leadership. John has had a fascinating career as a former ambassador and a speechwriter to prime ministers and governors general. And his impact continues here with the Canadian Nuclear Association.
Again, thank you both and good morning everyone.
I want to speak personally just for a moment to tell you about my uncle, David Golden. David Golden taught us a lot in my family, but two things in particular. As the youngest Deputy Minister in Canadian history — C.D. Howe’s Deputy Minister in the mid-1950s — Uncle David taught us the importance of the value of public service and — the message that our government has delivered from day one, including in the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to all of his Ministers — that we work with our partners in the public service of Canada. We cannot accomplish our agenda without them, without their creativity, their loyalty and hard work. So, I want to say to every public servant in the room how much we appreciate what you do for Canada. Thank you.
And secondly, I want to say that Uncle David — in addition to being the founding president and CEO of Telesat Canada, a board upon which Michael Binder [Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission President and CEO] sat — was on the board of AECL for years. And what he, as a director of AECL, taught me was the importance of the nuclear industry for Canada, seeing the potential globally for this technology that we had so skilfully developed. Uncle David passed at the age of 92, as sharp as he ever had been, and he imbued in his children and his nephews and nieces the value of public service and the importance of your industry.
Your industry stands at the intersection of so many of the important issues facing our country, and indeed the world: climate change, clean energy and green infrastructure, sustainable growth and good jobs. We’re at a pivotal moment. The world is making an historic transition to a low-carbon economy. Investing in clean technology and innovation is the new imperative.
The good news is that Canada’s nuclear sector is ideally positioned for tomorrow’s opportunities. You are building on a long history of leadership and innovation across the spectrum of nuclear activity, contributing to our government’s main priorities around climate change.
Canada is the world’s second-largest exporter of uranium. We have advanced nuclear technology in diverse fields such as health care, food safety and materials engineering. Candu reactors are currently operating in seven countries, and our nuclear industry is engaged in the world’s fastest-growing nuclear markets, particularly China. As you know, my colleague Minister McKenna [the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment] and Parliamentary Secretary Rudd have both actively promoted Canadian nuclear technology on their visits to China. Canada’s strength at home translates directly into our strength abroad.
Mission Possible is more than just a great theme for your conference and convention. It’s also the new reality and a call to action in this clean-growth century. The question is, How do we seize the moment? I have some modest suggestions and a challenge for you. But let me start by taking you back to our government’s earliest days in office.
My first foreign assignment as the Minister of Natural Resources was to represent Canada in Paris at an International Energy Agency meeting two weeks before COP21. It was there that I first learned about a proposed new global partnership called Mission Innovation. Its goal: to push clean energy innovation and R&D like never before by getting governments around the world to work together and to step up their individual efforts by doubling investments in clean energy research and development within five years.
Adding to Mission Innovation’s appeal was the simultaneous focus on the private sector. It complemented the work being done by some of the world’s best known entrepreneurs — people such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg — in their breakthrough energy coalition who are helping to mobilize the private sector to commercialize tomorrow’s energy solutions. Most importantly, there was a natural link between Mission Innovation and a commitment we had made on the campaign trail to increase our clean tech spending.
So our delegation returned to Ottawa, and we discussed Mission Innovation with the Prime Minister. You always get a little bit nervous when you talk about spending money with the Prime Minister. But in this case he went to Paris shortly afterwards to build support for the historic agreement on climate change, and while he was there announced that Canada would be a founding member of Mission Innovation. And 15 months later, Mission Innovation’s membership stands at 22 countries and growing.
This is important for two reasons. First, through Mission Innovation we established that Canada’s baseline spending on clean energy R&D was $387 million in 2014–15. That means that if we are to double it within five years, we will need to hit $775 million by 2020. That is a significant commitment we have made.
And second, Canada is one of only nine Mission Innovation countries to include nuclear energy as part of its clean energy portfolio. The inclusion of nuclear energy should tell you something about the importance of your industry and how Mission Innovation is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that nuclear energy can contribute to Canada’s clean innovation landscape.
Nuclear is already helping Canada to meet its Mission Innovation target through infrastructure and R&D investments underway to support clean energy research at the Chalk River Laboratories. Parliamentary Secretary Kim Rudd and I have seen first-hand the value of those investments. We were just there last fall to open the new Harriet Brooks Lab, named after Canada’s first female nuclear physicist.
And as Canada celebrates Women in Science Month, I would like to recognize the accomplishment of our female nuclear scientists and all women in this industry whose contributions have been invaluable to driving innovation and building our country’s capabilities in cutting-edge research. And when I come back next year to deliver the speech, I want it to be 50-50, just like the Cabinet.
And at Chalk River, Kim and I toured the new state-of-the-art labs and saw the leading-edge research they will be doing there. It holds incredible promise for Canada not just in combating climate change but driving innovation, health care, security and communications.
Of course, research is only half of the equation. Breakthroughs have limited value unless there are clear plans for applying them, for making practical use of them. The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is our plan — a direct path to tomorrow’s lower carbon economy — one that includes tremendous opportunities for you to help green what is already one of the cleanest electricity markets in the world.
Nuclear energy has to be part of this equation because it already accounts for about 16 percent of Canada’s electricity supply, and there is simply no reason why nuclear energy can’t claim a larger share of our electricity mix. I don’t know the last time you had a Minister of Natural Resources saying that, but I say it with confidence in you. We are doing our part to help make that happen by putting a price a carbon, accelerating the phase-out of coal-powered electricity and promoting the expansion of existing clean electricity systems. We started those efforts with our first budget, which was like a down payment on Canada’s clean growth future by committing $1 billion in new investments to support clean technology over the next four years.
The Minister of Finance also outlined other new and specific initiatives in his Fall Economic Statement to support the effort, including $22 billion for green infrastructure such as interprovincial transmission lines to reduce our reliance on coal and at least $35 billion to establish the Canada infrastructure bank as an innovative way to finance more clean energy projects.
We all know that power generation falls under provincial jurisdiction. At the federal level, we can work with our partners to help shape the vision for cleaner electricity. But ultimately, it’s up to the provinces to choose the sources of electricity that will make up their clean grids. That’s where you come in. This is your chance to bring the provinces and territories on board by demonstrating how nuclear energy can help Canada to meet its climate change goals. The partnerships are already developing. Look at Ontario’s $26-billion refurbishment of its nuclear power plants at Darlington and Bruce, a mix of public and private investment that confirms how nuclear projects can attract private capital, drive clean growth and create jobs.
The Conference Board of Canada has estimated that the refurbishment underway at Darlington will create an average of 8,800 jobs while boosting Canada’s GDP by $14.9 billion. With new markets developing our Canada’s homegrown technology, the opportunities are only going to multiply.
Our government gets it. We see Canada’s nuclear industry for what it is: a strategic asset, a leader driver of innovation and, most of all, an important part of Canada’s growing clean energy mix. You have the expertise, the technology and the supply chain.
So here’s the challenge to everyone here today. Mobilize: ensure nuclear contributes to our pan-Canadian vision for clean electricity. It’s your opportunity. It’s our opportunity. Make it your mission possible.
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