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Speaking Notes for The Honourable Navdeep Bains, PC, MP Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce
April 27, 2016
Check against delivery
Thank you, Madame Comeau for that kind introduction. Chiefs, leaders, Member of Parliament Mike MacLeod, Members of the Chamber, it is a pleasure to be here today on traditional Dene territory.
I sincerely appreciate this opportunity to visit Yellowknife at this time in my mandate. As Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development I have the great task of ensuring that innovation and scientific discovery continue to be key drivers of economic growth across Canada.
As you know, my portfolio includes organizations like the National Research Council and the Business Development Bank of Canada, with whom many of you work and whose role is key to driving innovation in Canada
I am also responsible for Canada’s six Regional Development Agencies – including the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor as you know it.
Every year, through RDAs like CanNor, we invest close to 1 billion dollars in communities from coast to coast to coast, helping to develop and diversify our economy.
Since its creation, CanNor alone has supported more than 1,000 projects across the territories for a total investment of approximately 255 million dollars in non-repayable contributions. That includes 59 million in Aboriginal economic programming.
When the Prime Minister decided to bring together all of the regional development agencies under one portfolio, it made a lot of sense to me.
Now that the agencies are together under one roof, CanNor now has access to the best practices and creative thinking of its regional agency colleagues across the country.
They are my eyes and ears on the ground. I count on them to continue to work with business and community leaders like you to identify and support competitive regional advantages here in the NWT and across the country.
It’s true that regional economic development looks very different in the North, and from east to west – that’s why we have different agencies for each region after all.
It’s also true that we are facing some common challenges in our effort to drive national economic development everywhere in Canada.
Global economic context
Let me reflect on what’s going on around us and around the world.
First, the Prime Minister and a record 171 world leaders just signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Living here on the “front line” of climate change, you have always known that a clean environment and strong economy can and should go hand in hand.
Now, there is global momentum to act on climate change and to accelerate the transition to a low carbon future through the development and adoption of clean tech and digital technologies.
This is an opportunity for Canada to show global leadership. We have a natural competitive advantage here and we should take full advantage of it.
Second, the global economic climate is weak with lukewarm demand and unpredictability in the financial markets. This is driving a global adjustment – that means slower growth.
You’re living that here in the territory. The northern economy grew at 3 per cent over growth of 2 per cent nationally over the last couple of years.
But now the downturn in commodity prices and other dynamics in the resource sector are taking a significant toll on growth in the North. We need to respond.
Third, we live in an increasingly connected world. The Internet makes goods cheaper, and the world smaller and more competitive.
Adopting digital technologies and digital skills are key to Canada’s competitiveness.
I think you’d agree that having a reliable broadband connection is a good start and that my colleague Michael Macleod brought you good news recently with a $2.6 million dollar Connecting Canadians investment to increase broadband Internet access for over 500 households here in the NWT.
Building on the success of the Connecting Canadians program, through Budget 2016, we will also invest an additional $500 million to further extend and enhance broadband service to large institutions in rural and remote communities across Canada.
New technologies have created great, new, previously unthinkable opportunities for Canadians – to communicate with each other, to buy things online, and for businesses to compete globally.
A strong digital economy requires the right fundamentals. We are at a historic and transformative time. It’s not about old and new economies. It’s about building on our strengths – our people, our natural resources and our industrial capabilities – to drive innovation across all sectors of the economy and society.
The North is vital to this success. [In my meeting this morning with Premier McLeod, I got a candid update on the economic challenges facing the Northwest Territories, but we also discussed the future opportunities that lie in strategic government and private sector investments, for instance in infrastructure] – keep or insert new based on discussion.
That’s why, under Budget 2016, we committed 40 million dollars over two years to renew CanNor‘s Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development Program, 10 million dollars over four years for the Northern Projects Management Office, and 4 million dollars to extend the Northern Adult Basic Education Program for a year while the colleges develop a new approach to learning and skills development. And we need urgently to do more.
A Bold Path Forward
In my mandate letter, the Prime Minister asked me to build an Innovation Agenda that will define how we support innovation and growth in the Canadian economy.
I have spent considerable time since my appointment thinking and talking about how to make Canada more of an Innovation Nation.
I have been speaking daily with Canadian and international business groups, leading thinkers and experts about how we can cultivate a culture of innovation and risk-taking.
My number one priority is to build Canada as a centre of global innovation that is renowned for its science, technology, creativity, entrepreneurial citizens, and competitive companies.
This will be done in collaboration with the private sector, civil society, other federal departments, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments.
In the North, the Development Corporations and Indigenous-owned companies have a strong track record for business development and entrepreneurship and I will want to hear from them.
Innovation is what drives all successful economies. The world economy is entering a new industrial age in which technology is fundamentally altering business and business models, as well as every aspect of our personal lives.
Everywhere I go, businessmen and women like you are talking to me about the challenges of attracting world-class talent, of accessing global markets, of scaling up to make the leap from a dozen employees to a hundred.
We must look beyond short-term responses to the price of oil. Our task is nothing less than “reimagining the Canadian economy.” The path to clean growth lies in an innovative, productive and low-carbon economy.
I am working closely with my colleague Minister McKenna, who is working with provincial and territorial governments, following the First Ministers’ Meeting in Vancouver, to map out a pan-Canada strategy on climate change, including making key investments in clean technology.
As we develop this pan-Canadian strategy through online and other consultations. I encourage you to encourage others to share ideas and solutions online at www.canada.ca/climateaction.
Through Budget 2016, the government is providing over 1 billion dollars to encourage investments in clean tech in forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture sectors.
This is money that will also benefit economic development in the North, either through project driven, direct investments, or through contribution funding from agencies such as CanNor.
I am looking forward to working with you and other members of the northern business community to advance federal investments in clean technology and climate change adaptation activities, such as renewable energy resources.
Clean technology will play a critical role in Canada’s transformation into a low-carbon, globally competitive economy.
By supporting clean tech, the government is seeking to reduce the environmental impacts of energy production in a way that will create jobs and leave future generations of Canadians with a sustainable and prosperous country.
I am meeting with the Arctic Energy Alliance later today to better understand how we might be able to implement this work in the Northwest Territories.
And I would warmly welcome your ideas and suggestions as well.
My visit here helps me appreciate even more what a vast and beautiful country we live in.
It’s also an important reminder of the challenge geography presents when delivering programs and services to keep Canadians at the cutting-edge of today’s digital economy.
These and other challenges we face are best tackled in collaboration. This government is committed to working in partnership at all levels, for and with Canadians.
As I said, my aim is to build a national innovation and growth agenda that is based on principles of inclusiveness and sustainability.
I know very well that government cannot act alone. The Canadian economy – from coast, to coast, to coast – needs to grow through the ingenuity of the private sector and through job creation – especially for and with Indigenous people.
I encourage you to continue to make good use of the resources that my department has on the ground here in the Northwest Territories, especially CanNor and BDC.
The offices are your direct entry points, and the staff is here to help.
I look forward to a productive relationship with businesses in Yellowknife and across the Northwest Territories, as we work to achieve these goals.
Thank you, Masi cho.
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