Thank you, Peter [Braid, Member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo], for the very kind and generous introduction. It is great to be here in Kitchener–Waterloo, an area of the country that really is seen as a source of inspiration for growth, technology, innovation and what it can mean for the Canadian economy.
And speaking of the Canadian economy, we did have some very good news today: Canada's unemployment rate has now dipped below 7 percent. We're at 6.9 percent. In the month of March, 43,000 jobs were created in the Canadian economy. So this is very good.
But we can't just sit back and be satisfied with where we are today. We have to move forward, and we have to build a healthy and stronger country as we go forward.
And that's why I'm here today because, you know, we are a country of nation builders. We are.
Back at the time of Confederation—back in 1881, in fact, just after Confederation—it was Sir John A. Macdonald who looked at this country, recognized the lessons of the past and said if we don't build a railway from one end of this country all the way to the other, this country won't long survive. He knew that, at the time, the next great nation building was to build a railway.
Since the building of the railway, of course, we've built ports, airports, the Trans-Canada Highway and some great national institutions. But you know, nation building isn't just about looking backward; it's about looking ahead.
So the question for us today is what's next?
Well, what's next for Canada is digital because nation building moving forward has to include a comprehensive, aggressive and thoughtful policy for a digital Canada.
So today, I am very pleased to be here to unveil Digital Canada 150, a comprehensive digital policy for Canada.
Digital Canada 150 is a bold plan to guide Canada's digital future. It's the result of submissions that came in from all across Canada. More than 2,000 Canadians registered to take part. Ideas came in. We went through them, and we put together a comprehensive plan that will benefit this country going forward.
Digital Canada 150 sets clear goals of what Canada can achieve by the time we celebrate our 150th birthday in 2017. There are five pillars, 39 new initiatives and one national plan for 35 million Canadians.
So I'm just going to go through those five pillars now and talk about what's in this plan.
The five pillars are:
- Connecting Canadians;
- Protecting Canadians;
- Economic Opportunities of the Digital World;
- Digital Government; and
- Canadian Content.
The first pillar, Connecting Canadians, is about ensuring that Canadians across this country have access to wireless technologies and high-speed networks at the most affordable and competitive prices.
So what's new in Digital Canada 150? Digital Canada 150 will connect over 98 percent of all Canadians with high-speed Internet services with download speeds of at least 5 megabytes per second. Canadian households, mostly rural and northern households, will have high-speed Internet access for the very first time.
And by the way, we often need to remind ourselves Canada is the second-largest country in the world in size, but 37th largest in terms of population. To achieve this goal of high-speed download services with the geographic footprint that Canada has is truly an impressive achievement. I can tell you that we will be working with the private sector as we move forward with our RFP process to map the entirety of Canada with high-speed Internet access. And when I've been in Europe and when I've been in other jurisdictions—even in South Korea, a country that's smaller than the size of New Brunswick—when I say this to my counterparts, they're blown away that a country of our size and population can achieve something as ambitious as this.
Also under Digital Canada 150, the Building Canada Fund, our infrastructure fund, will make digital projects eligible for program funding for the first time. So it's not just roads and bridges and tunnels and rail crossings but also digital technology eligible for Government of Canada funding.
And we will unbundle television packages, so consumers can pick and choose the combinations of channels that they want, not those that are imposed on them.
And we're also going to be capping domestic roaming fees on networks in Canada to increase competition and lower prices for Canadian consumers.
We've also created new rules for cell towers to ensure that communities have a say on where these towers are built and how they're built.
And our wireless policy is delivering more choice at lower prices and better services for Canadian consumers in every region of the country.
The second pillar is Protecting Canadians. As we encourage more and more Canadians to go online in their personal lives, in their academic lives and in their business lives, we have to make sure that they have confidence that their online presence and their online transactions are secure, that their privacy is protected and that their families are safe from online threats and cyberbullying.
So that's why in Digital Canada 150, we take a number of initiatives. For the first one, next week in Parliament, I will be tabling the Digital Privacy Act. This is an update to the PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) legislation that's already on the books, which modernizes it for the new digital age. This new Digital Privacy Actwill give the Privacy Commissioner new powers and responsibilities to enforce and protect the privacy of individual Canadians as they venture increasingly online.
We also have before Parliament new cyberbullying legislation that will protect families from the invasion of privacy, the intimidation and often the personal abuse that is far too often seen online.
We will also make sure that our networks are protected from untrusted equipment. This has long been a topic on the international scene, and in Canada we've been lagging behind, but we will have legislation in Parliament and a new regime in place to ensure that our wireless and wired Internet services will be secure from terrorist threats, from asymmetrical threats and from symmetrical threats that pose a real risk to the integrity of our cyber systems.
And on July 1 of this year, Canada's anti-spam legislation will come into full force, protecting Canadians and businesses from digital abuse online as well.
So Connecting Canadians, now Protecting Canadians online. The third of the five pillars is Economic Opportunities of the Digital World.
Digital Canada 150 has a number of new initiatives, including $200 million in new funding to help small and medium-sized businesses adopt digital technologies. And we will invest an additional $300 million in venture capital for digital companies across this country.
Digital Canada 150 will also invest $40 million to support 3,000 internships in high-demand fields all across this country. Canadian chambers of commerce have asked for this in regions all across the country to draw in the talent, to get those kids out of high schools who have great ideas, to give them experiences in the real world and to provide them with training and real world experiences. And we're going to work with the private sector to make that happen.
We're also increasing funding for the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program to $100 million.
And we're also going to provide support for the Institute for Quantum Computing.
And also not only on this macro scale and all this investment and all these partnerships, but also we're doing meaningful things for small communities that often feel left behind in the digital age. We are putting forward $36 million in new money to repair and refurbish and donate computers to public libraries, not-for-profit organizations and Aboriginal communities in order to give students and young people—often for the first time—access to the digital world.
So Connecting Canadians, Protecting Canadians, Economic Opportunities of the Digital World, and now the fourth of the five pillars: a Digital Government of Canada.
It's about us walking our talk when it comes to the digital world.
Many of you have been involved in the Canadian Open Data Experience and the appathon, which had over 900 app developers from across Canada use raw government data and the Open Data Portal to create apps. The experience was a fantastic one, led by Treasury Board President Tony Clement.
But beyond that, we want to build on that success and open up government to be more digital and accessible to Canadians. So we're going to be modernizing the Government of Canada's operations internally, catching up to the 21st century, finally, with one web presence and one consolidated email system across the entirety of the Government of Canada.
We're also going to be creating the Open Data Institute, which involves many people in this room.
And we will develop Open Science to open public access to federally funded scientific research. You know, Canadians spend and invest millions of dollars through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada and Industry Canada on all kinds of phenomenal scientific discoveries and research. And it's not as easily accessible to Canadians as it ought to be. And through Open Science, we will be opening the doors and sharing that scientific information and research to academic institutions, to everyday Canadians, so that the scientific research and discovery doesn't end with government but begins with access to this data.
And you know, once we achieve all these things of more open and digital government, once we connect Canadians, once we make the Internet more secure and once we're really on the leading edge of making Canada a leader in the digital economic opportunities, what's next? Canadian content.
And this is what gets me, frankly, most inspired. For five and a half years I was Canada's Minister of Canadian Heritage and arts and culture and official languages.
And so you know, once you connect Canadians and you make it secure and you're taking advantage of the economic opportunities, and government is walking its talk in the digital world, now comes the fun stuff, the important stuff of telling Canadian stories to one another as we go into our 150th birthday in 2017. And Digital Canada 150 has a number of new initiatives to take advantage of that, to talk about Canada in the way that we should in the digital age.
For example, we're going to be supporting new Heritage Minutes as we move forward every year now towards our 150th birthday.
The Canadian Museum of History, the largest museum in all of Canada based in the national capital, will have more digital content than ever before. We're investing $25 million to refurbish and rebuild the institution, with a clear mandate to focus on more digital content than ever before.
As well, virtualmuseum.ca, it exists, but we wish more Canadians would see it. More Canadians will now see it because it will be sistered with and led by the Canadian Museum of History, and its content will be made available to more Canadians than ever before.
We've also supported key projects to ensure that digital creators have access to markets around the world by merging the Canadian Television Fund and the Canada New Media Fund into the Canada Media Fund, and making it an A-base project for the Government of Canada. It is being backed by $100 million in new funding every single year to support apps and video games, television shows, documentaries and shorts, which will be made available on digital platforms, engaging the entire the world. It is a remarkable accomplishment and an important ingredient to ensuring that Canadian digital content is available all across Canada and indeed around the world.
I'll just deviate from script here for a minute. It's a sad stat, but it's an important one: in only 4 of Canada's 13 provinces and territories is it necessary for a child to take a history class in order to graduate from high school—4 out of 13. And often, what's called history in these classrooms is not what one would call a robust understanding and deep appreciation of the fullness of Canadian history.
Well, we as a federal government—education is a provincial responsibility—but we as a federal government and the private sector and institutions that exist out there, we can work together and do better than that.
We're creating the Canadian Museum of History, but we have to make sure that all of our museums in the vastness of this country—second largest in the world in size, 37th largest in population—we need to make sure that all of our institutions are sharing Canadian history, telling Canadian history, so we can learn from one another and build and grow and stay united as we go forward to our 150th birthday.
But better than that, it's not even just about telling Canadian stories of the past, it's about dreaming and thinking of the future. It's about young kids. You know, I know that those of you who work here at OpenText and those who work at RIM and those who work at the universities in Waterloo and Kitchener, all of you who are engaged in the digital world.
We all know that the digital universe doesn't begin when you're handed your first Q10 or you're given your first iPad or you're given your first Samsung. We know that it begins when you're three and four feet tall, when you to go a museum and you see performing arts and you're exposed to music, and those synapses in the brain fire at a very young age and those creative centres are stirred when you're young. And your creative engine is fired up for lifelong learning in the creative arts, which spills over into the digital world, which spills over into the digital economy, which spills over into the overall economy, which creates the best quality of life in the world for Canada. That's what's we're doing. That's what we're doing in supporting digital content through the Government of Canada and Digital Canada 150.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. This has been in the works for a very long time. We've worked very hard to ensure that we have a digital policy, Digital Canada 150, that works for all of Canada.
There are five pillars to Canada's digital economy strategy:
- connecting Canadians for the future;
- protecting Canadians online;
- making sure we take advantage of the economic opportunities;
- making sure that government is walking its talk, that we're more digital than ever before; and
- supporting Canadian content with new initiatives in the digital world.
Five pillars, 39 new initiatives, one national policy for 35 million Canadians. That's Digital Canada 150.
I really appreciate your attention and your involvement in this debate. As we move forward, Canada will benefit from this. We will all benefit from a comprehensive policy that makes sure that we take full advantage of the digital world that lies in front of us.
Thank you all very much.