Opening Plenary — Generation Energy Forum
The Honourable Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resource
RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba
October 11, 2017
Good morning, everybody. It’s particularly rewarding for me to welcome all of you to my home, to Winnipeg and to Manitoba.
When I reflect about what it means to be home, I think about what is probably the most liberal immigration policy in the history of the world, and that is the Indigenous immigration policy that let us all in. National Chief, thank you very much. I don’t know where we would be without you. You know that we always start out these conversations by acknowledging that we are, in my case, on Treaty 1 territory, in the homeland of the Métis Nation. Well, why do we do that?
It’s not only to acknowledge rights, treaties. It’s also to honour a principle. And the principle is one that we have inherited from the seven generations that have come before — a sacred trust, the most fundamental of all relationships: our relationship with the land, the air and the water. We have an obligation in our time to ensure that we pass on that relationship better than we found it to generations that will follow. And I honour that value and those principles rooted in generational responsibility, looking forward and appreciating what has come before.
This is not the first time that Canadians have gathered in a conference. Some of you may remember the Charlottetown Conference of 1864. I saw a picture of the Charlottetown Conference: they were a group of old men with beards wearing top hats. There wasn’t a woman to be found, and I’m sure there were no Indigenous leaders at the table. They had a vision of creating out of disparate provinces a nation — a nation called Canada — that was born out of a meeting of people with common objective.
In 1960, Lester Pearson, who had just won a Nobel Peace Prize, was trying to figure out what to make out of a political party that was in shambles. So he called a conference. He called a few dozen thinkers together that grew to 200 or more to talk at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. What came out of that conversation was a social policy revolution for Canada; what came out of that conversation was Medicare, the Canada Pension Plan. Because men and women of like mind and common aspiration came together in a conference not unlike this one to make a change, a transformational change, a generational change.
And literally within 50 metres of here in the year 2000, there was a meeting of people from around Canada and around the world to talk about immigration policy for Manitoba. Manitoba was welcoming 3,000 immigrants a year. But by the end of that conference the goal was 10,000, and in reality it became 16,000, which transformed immigration policy not only for Manitoba but for Canada.
And I would argue, we are a model for the world right here at this conference — Generation Energy — like-minded people working together with a common objective.
It’s exactly eight years ago today that the leaders of all of Canada’s think tanks came to Winnipeg to talk about a Canadian Energy Strategy. Why? Because President Obama in his first foreign trip stopped in Ottawa to chat with Prime Minister Harper and invited Prime Minister Harper to engage in a continental energy strategy. And a few of us scratched our heads and we said, “Well, that’s a great idea. What’s the Canadian Energy Strategy?” And there wasn’t one.
So, for a day and a half in a boardroom not more than one kilometre from here, those men and women representing the finest think tanks in the country established the framework of what became the Canadian Energy Strategy that was announced by the Council of the Federation and that we hope to build. This happened all because of people coming together.
So who are we? Who are you in this room? You are many hundreds — six or seven hundred by the time tomorrow is over. And you come from literally every corner of Canada, and you come from around the world: from the United States, from Germany, from Norway, from France, from Mexico. And who are you? You are men and women, young people, Indigenous leaders. You’re scientists. You’re entrepreneurs. You’re thinkers. You’re people with ideas. And you’re citizens ready to do your part. That’s who we are.
Why are we here? We are here really to answer one overreaching question: What do we think Canada’s energy mix will look like a generation from now? What are our aspirational goals? What can we agree on as a set of values and principles that we want to leave behind generationally to our children and our grandchildren? I am certain we can agree about what that should be, and then we dial it back and we ask the question: How do we get there?
And you know, it’s not always easy to manage the tension between the moment and a generational ambition. We can look at all kinds of examples of where a hydro dam has to be built. What’s the lifespan of a hydro dam? Fifty years, 75 years? But the decision to build it has to be taken at an economic and a political moment in time that could be surrounded by controversy.
Let me give you an example from my own province. It was in the mid-1960s when the Premier at the time, the Honourable Duff Roblin, said I’m going to build a floodway so that never again will the people of Red River, the people of southern Manitoba, see their homes destroyed, their livelihoods wiped out, the aspirations for their children obliterated by a flood. So he built a floodway for $65 million in a cost-shared agreement with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.
And he was pilloried. The shouts of irresponsible use of public money emanated from the Manitoba Legislature. He was bringing the province to its knees — $65 million that has saved billions for generations that followed.
The tension between a political moment and a generational ambition is one of the challenges that we will be grappling with, and the answer of course is bold political leadership supported by the people to whom we are accountable.
So what have we done so far? This is a figure my staff tells me it’s true. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you’re going to have to suspend belief at what I’m about to tell you, but 350,000 people have logged onto the website to give us an opinion over the last six months. Three hundred and twenty thousand from every nook and cranny of Canada, and the rest from around the world with their own idea, their own sense of generational responsibility — 350,000.
I want to challenge all of you out there. This is not an exercise in examining every little research project. It’s not to take your passion and somehow divorce it from the greater good and the wider objective. We want you to take your great idea, your passion, your research, your entrepreneurial inspiration, and tell us how does it fit? How does it fit generationally into the kind of energy mix we want for Canada?
By the way, I’m a little bit selfish about all this, too. Because in his mandate letter to me, the Prime Minister has asked me to move ahead with my provincial partners and with our Indigenous partners the idea of a Canadian Energy Strategy. So I hope you don’t feel too used, but I’m using you to advance what that means. And not only what that means for Canada as a progressive nation state but as an important partner in the international community.
I say that the success of any gourmet meal is usually sealed in when you leave the grocery store. You are the ingredients. This is going to be a terrific meal. Let’s start cooking.
Thank you very much.
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