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Speaking Points

The Honourable Christian Paradis, PC, MP
Minister of Industry

Stratford, Ontario
April 24, 2012

Check Against Delivery

Thank you, and good morning, everyone.

It's a pleasure to be here in Stratford, a city best known for its plays and theatre.

But it is also a city that has again been named one of the world's Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year.

I can think of no better place than here—where creativity meets intelligence—to host this great gathering.

And I can think of no better audience with whom to discuss our government's vision for reclaiming our place as a world leader in digital technology.

I have traveled across the country and spoken directly to you—our innovators, creators and entrepreneurs.

I've held consultations with different clusters in different cities to get a clear picture of where we stand.

You have told me a lot of positive things:

  • That leading technology companies are proud to call Canada home;
  • That our nation's digital infrastructure is comparable to other top tier industrialized countries; and
  • That we can capitalize on having some of the most Internet-savvy citizens in the world.

But you also shared many concerns:

  • That Canada is not yet realizing the full potential of new technologies;
  • That our information and communications technology sector is no longer at the forefront of innovation; and
  • That our industries invest less in cutting-edge technology than our counterparts in other countries.

Ultimately, given the right tools, we can do better. We need to do better.

I believe government's role is to give our best and brightest the opportunity to succeed—and then get out of the way.

It is you who will lead in the creation of a dynamic and viable sector.

That is why we are supporting start-up incubators, like Communitech in Waterloo, that get new technology companies off the ground with a mix of public and private investment.

It is also why we committed an additional $400 million in Economic Action Plan 2012 to:

  • Leverage private sector investments in early-stage risk capital; and
  • Support the creation of large-scale venture capital funds led by the private sector.

This is on top of the $100 million we have made available through the Business Development Bank of Canada specifically for venture capital.

We are also lifting restrictions on foreign investment for companies with less than a 10-percent share of the telecommunications market.

This will remove a key barrier to investment for smaller telecom companies.

But to fully reap the benefits of a digital economy, we need people with the confidence and skills to use technology.

In other words, a digitally literate workforce equipped to not only use today's technologies but also develop tomorrow's.

We know that in order to compete and innovate, companies must attract and retain the best possible talent.

That is why during my recent meetings with provincial and territorial ministers, we agreed on the importance of digital skills to our economy as a whole.

Our colleges and universities must also work with the private sector to ensure that:

  • Graduates have the skills needed to be effective and find challenging employment; and
  • Employers have access to a savvy and empowered workforce to fuel their growth.

That is one of the reasons we expanded the Industrial Research and Development Internship program.

This will help graduate students get hands-on research experience in innovative Canadian firms like yours.

But it will also aid businesses gain access to the talent they need to compete in the digital economy.

We have also come forward with $50 million to enhance the Youth Employment Strategy to help more young people gain experience in fields that are in demand.

At the same time, we are also looking beyond our borders.

We are transforming Canada's immigration system into one that is fast, flexible and focused on jobs, growth and prosperity.

In fact, our government launched consultations on a new program to fast-track immigration of entrepreneurs just last week.

But our workforce alone cannot address one of our most critical challenges—productivity.

It is through the adoption of cutting-edge technology that Canada will increase the productivity of our nation.

We must drive product and service innovations and propel them into every corner of our economy.

That is where our future lies, and to get there, we must invest, adapt and innovate.

Our government has set aside $110 million per year for the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).

This will double the support available to companies and benefit smaller firms that have been calling for increased NRC-IRAP funding.

These measures build on past investments targeted specifically towards our smaller businesses.

Investments that include the $80-million Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program designed to:

  • Speed up the rate at which our small and medium-sized enterprises adopt digital technology; and
  • Build the bank of digital skills available for their use.

And, through the Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program, we intend to play a leadership role as a “first customer.”

We are improving government procurement in order to:

  • Maximize job creation;
  • Support Canadian innovation; and
  • Bolster economic growth across the country.

We have also begun to build a modern legal framework that can protect consumers and businesses alike.

With the proposed amendments to private sector privacy legislation, we will solidify consumer confidence in the online marketplace.

The Copyright Modernization Act will:

  • Give creators the tools to protect their work and grow their businesses; and
  • Provide world-leading owner and user rights.

And the anti-spam legislation, which we expect to take effect next year, will protect both Canadians and businesses against unwanted spam.

In order for every Canadian to reap the benefits of the digital economy, we need a reliable digital infrastructure.

We know Canadians lead the world in Internet use.

But there remains a gap between rural and urban Canadians in terms of access to leading-edge broadband.

This is unacceptable.

Our government has been clear—rural Canadians deserve the same reliable access as urban Canadians.

That's why we invested in Broadband Canada to bring faster Internet to nearly 218,000 Canadian households.

It is also why we are proposing rural deployment obligations as part of the upcoming spectrum auction.

The final consultation on the 700 megahertz spectrum auction format and conditions of licence will be launched tomorrow.

This will further enable companies to bring LTE or fourth-generation mobile services to more Canadians across the entire country.

I am not here to tell you that our work is done.

This is not the kind of project you complete and put on a shelf.

This industry moves too fast, and our approach needs to be able to adapt just as quickly.

But I am here to tell you that our government has heard you.

I am here to tell you that we are committed to delivering a Canadian digital economy strategy:

  • One that is based on my conversations with you;
  • One that challenges our innovators;
  • One that drives new technology; and
  • One that, through technology, benefits our entire economy.

Addressing the challenges we face with regard to access to capital and a literate workforce as well as adoption and productivity is also part of this strategy's framework.

This is the foundation upon which we will build a clear strategy for the sector and the economy as a whole.

But, later this year, when we put that strategy forward, it will only succeed if industry as well as federal, provincial and territorial governments work together.

This means:

  • Provinces and territories need to make tomorrow's skills a priority today in their education systems.
  • Colleges and universities must work more closely with the private sector.
  • Industry must work to bring forward more private investment, particularly in early-stage risk capital, and to support larger-scale venture capital funds.
  • Companies must use their enhanced access to broadband to support the shift to a more mobile, digitally connected economy.

As a nation we need to take more risks, think more creatively and act more boldly to claim our place in the global digital economy.

I know we can be a world leader in the creation and use of information technologies.

But it requires us all to move forward in the same direction as one country.

As a nation we have faced some serious challenges recently, but we have come away from them stronger than ever.

This is thanks, in no small part, to the drive of entrepreneurs and innovators such as you.

Our government has begun and will continue to provide you with the tools you need.

But it is through our business leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and creators that Canada will succeed.

Together, I know we can ensure Canada's place at the forefront of the digital economy.

We can capture its potential.

We can create technology.

And we can reap the benefits.

Thank you.

See also:

Minister Paradis Challenges Canadian Businesses to Lead in the Global Digital Economy

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