Thank you, Ambassador Doer, for the very kind and generous introduction. And thank you to the Canadian American Business Council for organizing this gathering and, of course, to our hosts at Google.
I would like to begin this speech by reminding all of us that the relationship between Canada and the United States is essential to our economic growth.
You know, Canada is the United States' largest customer, purchasing $233 billion in goods from the United States annually. That's more than Japan, the U.K. and China combined. But more than that, there are more than 8 million U.S. jobs that directly depend on this relationship with Canada and over 17,000 Canadian businesses that are doing business in the United States and directly employing more than 620,000 American citizens. And we exchange more than $1.4 million in commerce every minute of every day.
We are inextricably linked as trading partners and as neighbours. And our government is focused on ensuring that this relationship grows stronger to the mutual benefit of Canadians and Americans alike.
How? Through the Beyond the Borders initiative, by twinning the Detroit–Windsor border crossing, by investing in key commercial infrastructure and by working on regulatory cooperation between our countries to ensure that prosperity is realized on both sides of the border.
You know, in Canada, the global recession did hit us hard, but we recovered earlier and we emerged from the recession steady, strong and among the top performers of the G7 countries because Canada is a low-tax jurisdiction. We now have, across the board, the lowest taxes that we've seen in almost 50 years. The federal government has lowered taxes in almost every way in which it collects taxes. We've lowered the national sales tax by two percentage points. We've lowered small business taxes. We've even increased the personal deduction for paying taxes, to begin with taking tens of thousands of low-income Canadians and seniors off the tax rolls altogether. And for the purposes of business and commerce, of course, we've also lowered the corporate tax rate from 22 percent to 15 percent. The combined corporate tax rate across the country between the federal and provincial governments is, on average, a full 13 percentage points lower than what's offered in the United States.
The tax reductions that we've put in place have greatly benefited our country, and we are very pleased to see that foreign firms, including some very high-profile American firms like Burger King, Microsoft and others, are looking north to move or to expand their footprints in Canada. But these firms are also moving to Canada to take advantage of the fact that we are one of the great free-trading nations in the world.
During a period of isolationism internationally, we've managed to go from 6 to 43 free trade agreements around the world. We signed and are moving forward with the implementation of the Canada–European Union free trade agreement. We signed and are moving forward with the Canada–Korea Free Trade Agreement. And, as I said, we're moving forward with our relationship here with the United States, expanding our capacity to have an even deeper and more effective trade relationship with the United States.
The benefits for us as Canadians, through low taxes and expanded free trade, have been strong. We've recovered every job we lost during the recession. But better than that, we have 1.1 million net new jobs that have been created in Canada since the depth of the recession. Over 80 percent of those jobs have been full-time, 80 percent in the private sector and 63 percent in high-wage industries.
As Hillary Clinton said, "Canadian middle-class incomes are now higher than in the United States. Canadians are working fewer hours for more pay. They're living longer, on average, and they're facing less income inequality." And Hillary Clinton was right.
So the question for us as policy makers—those of us in the public sphere, those of you in the private sphere—is what's next?
Well, I submit to you—and I don't think there's a better place for me to argue this than here at Google—it's to move forward with a digital policy that will benefit the Canadian economy.
You know, we consulted Canadians widely before we came up with our digital policy, and there's a reason why we call it Digital Canada 150: because in 2017 we will celebrate our country's 150th birthday.
As we look around the world at other countries that have established and put in place digital policies, there is actually no single model that makes sense for all countries. But I'm going to walk you through briefly what we've done in Canada, why it makes sense for us and why it is that we think we're going to prosper from this digital policy.
It has five pillars. The first is connecting Canadians together. The second is protecting Canadians. The third is taking advantage of all the economic opportunities of the digital age. The fourth pillar is digital government, ensuring that governments are acting in a way that we hope the private sector will be moved to go as well. And the fifth, and the most important pillar in my judgment as the former Minister of Canadian Heritage, is the issue of Canadian content, making sure that culturally we are benefiting—for the purposes of national unity—from the digital age.
But I'll just walk through these very quickly. The first pillar is connecting Canadians, making sure that all of Canada is bound together and taking full advantage of the digital realities of today and of the future. We put in place in this year's budget—and we're moving forward and we'll have announcements this fall in this regard—a policy to make sure that 98 percent of Canadians have high-speed Internet anywhere in Canada.
Now that is a bold statement for a Canadian to make, I can tell you, because while Canada is the second largest country in the world in size, we're the 37th largest in terms of population. And you know, of course, how Canadians are along the southern border of Canada, close to the United States—much of our population, 80 percent of our population.
So for those who live outside of large, urban centres or affluent suburban neighbourhoods that have healthy Internet connectivity, for those who live in the rural parts of Canada, there's a real challenge in ensuring that we stay connected as we move forward.
So we have our Connecting Canadians program to make sure that everybody in remote, small villages is benefiting from broadband and, of course, its economic opportunities, social opportunities, educational opportunities and health opportunities that are missed out on if you don't have basic Internet connectivity.
We also have our Building Canada Fund. It's the largest investment in infrastructure in Canada's history, and included in that is the investment in digital technology, whether it's Wi-Fi, hotspots or other technology, to ensure that we stay connected well into the future.
We're unbundling television packages. The CRTC is right now examining that through its Let's Talk TV panels, but we've committed and will move forward as a government to ensure that consumers have choice in the marketplace when it comes to the television channels that they're offered. And we've capped domestic roaming fees on wireless services to ensure that we have more competition and more consumer-friendly policies in the wireless world. And we're also making sure that communities have a say in where cell towers are built.
On protecting Canadians: this is a vital piece because as more of our businesses, more of our social lives, more of our political and economic lives—all of it—are migrating online, we need to make sure that the online world is safe. First, we've put forward in Parliament Bill S-4, the Digital Privacy Act, which is designed to protect consumers from any violation of their privacy online.
There have been some high-profile cases, from some very well-known and high-profile firms on both sides of the border, of violation of privacy. This protects Canadian consumers from that kind of violation with a mandatory notice period and stiff penalties if consumers are not put first in digital transactions.
We also have cyberbullying legislation. As many of you know, this has been a source of real tragedy. In my hometown, a young girl was bullied mercilessly and viciously by a bunch of cowards online, and it drove her to suicide. This is far too common a reality, and we need to make sure that we protect our kids online.
We're also going to make sure that our networks are secure from asymmetric or symmetric attacks, or focused cyber terrorism, or espionage. We need to make sure that all of our networks are protected, not just government ones but all those beyond that. And, of course, we've put in place, as well, anti-spam legislation in Canada to make sure that the Internet is efficient and efficiently moving forward.
Taking advantage of economic opportunities, you know, the private sector does this well. Far be it for the government to lead in this regard, but it's important that the government listen and put in place the policy infrastructure so that those who are doing so well in the digital world are aided and not hurt by government policy.
So we have the Business Development Bank of Canada that has set funds aside to support firms in adopting digital technologies. We have new internships across the Government of Canada in digital policy positions. We have an accelerator and incubator program that is moving forward to support the creation of digital jobs. And a small thing, but it's very important: again with the remote communities, we're also building basic computer infrastructure in towns.
On digital government: this is the part where government needs to walk its talk. So we've put forward a number of initiatives. First off, government operations. It drives me crazy as an early adopter of all technology—and I'm sure it does for average Canadian taxpayers as well—when you pull up your smart phone and you want to find out about an application or get some basic information about passports or travel and virtually no website in all of the Government of Canada is done in a way that makes sense on a phone.
None of it is responsibly designed; none of it makes sense. And we have email addresses in dead ends and websites don't work and it's completely backwards. And it's often designed, frankly, by bureaucrats sitting at desktop terminals to read web pages that are best presented on desktop terminals. That's not where we're going.
We now live in a world where we pay $1,000 for a smart phone and $300 for a laptop. All of our digital infrastructure was built in an era when we spent $5,000 for a desktop and cell phones weren't invented. We actually need to recognize that and modernize our digital approach as a government to ensure that we are actually engaging Canadians where they are and when they are using the technologies of their choice.
We've also created the Open Data Institute to make sure that government data is being used beyond its typical purposes. Yes, we collect data and we use it for public policy purposes, for engagement, for information, but the secondary and tertiary use of this information for academic pursuits or for commercial and non-commercial purposes—it's being used by non-governmental organizations for all kinds of reasons—needs to be spilled out.
Taxpayers are paying for this information, and if it's not a matter of national security or national sovereignty, this information should be spilled out, shared with Canadians, so that it can be used to its maximum purpose. And we also have an open science initiative as well, an open science institute that we're driving forward as a government because we—the departments of Agriculture, of Fisheries and of Natural Resources, for example—collect remarkable data, incredible peer-reviewed scientific data, that should be shared with institutions in the private sector, again, to maximize its benefit. And we're accelerating the commercialization of new products to get them to market.
So once you've connected Canadians together, once you've built the networks, once you've made sure they're secure through cyberbullying and anti-spam legislation, you make sure you maximize the economic benefits of the Internet and the digital world and then you digitize government to the extent possible.
And the fifth and final pillar is the most important one to me as a Canadian. That's Canadian content.
Through the sweep of Canada's history—our 147th birthday was this summer—it has always been the challenge of every prime minister and every government to make sure that Canada stays united. That is the big challenge and the fact of Canada.
In the early days, it was French and English, Aboriginal and non, east and west, north and south. The divisions in Canada—geographic, cultural, linguistic, historic—have always been big challenges to keeping Canada united and prosperous moving forward.
So in everything that the government does, in economic and social policy and now digital policy, it always has to keep that in mind to make sure Canada stays united. So breathing life into those first four pillars is that issue of national unity as we go toward Canada 150.
So across the country we're supporting things like new Heritage Minutes and making sure that there's digital content in everything that we do—all of our national museums, the National Film Board, Telefilm—that everything that's being done always has at its heart a digital component. We're making sure that what we're paying for and what we're supporting as Canadians is being disseminated to Canadians in a digital way.
So for Digital Canada 150, we have those pillars: connecting Canadians, protecting us online, taking advantage of economic opportunities, making sure the government is as digital as possible and, in the end, making sure that Canadian content and Canadian stories are understood, shared and spread across the country and the world because we, as Canadians, are extraordinarily proud of our 147 years of history and because at the time of Confederation, nobody thought we would be here. Nobody thought we would be here.
It was barely news in London in 1867 when Canada was created. It was certainly not news in 1864 at the Québec and Charlottetown conferences, which led to 1867. But here we are, through all the challenges, wars, depressions, recessions, through all those divisions across this country that I described. And now, we're on the doorstep of our 150th birthday, moving forward more united and prosperous than ever before.
As Canadians, be very proud of where we've come from. Americans who are looking north to Canada and see a friendly neighbour, recognize that our country is indeed standing tall and proud. And it's not by accident. It's by hard work. It's by thinking through public policy and establishing public policy in a way that will benefit us for generations to come.
And so what's next for us, of course, is digital—and obviously taking full advantage of that but recognizing that Canadian prosperity also means a healthy, robust, sustained partnership with the United States so that both our economies can prosper and create jobs well into the future and we can indeed have the future that we all like to dream and think of.
Thanks very much for your time.