The Honourable Gary Goodyear, PC, MP
Minister of State (Science and Technology)
March 6, 2012
Check Against Delivery
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for the warm welcome. Let me first thank The Economic Club of Canada not only for your generous invitation to join you today but for your outstanding contribution to public discourse in Canada.
You know, in a world of tweets and texts, sound bites and video clips, there are fewer and fewer places where ideas can be properly discussed or policy options fully explored. The Economic Club of Canada is one of those places. And so I applaud your efforts and thank you for the forum you provide.
It is a pleasure to be here to discuss my portfolio as Minister of State for Science and Technology.
I don't need to remind any of you of the importance of science, technology and innovation to our daily lives and to the future prosperity of this country.
I want to paint a picture for you today of how science and technology ties into prosperity and of what is possible if we work together to get it right.
Microsoft, Research In Motion, Apple, Intel, Google and Facebook have changed our society. These are just a few examples of technologies that have had a wide-scale economic impact.
How do you create the next RIM or Apple? Where will the next Bill Gates, Jim Balsillie, Mike Lazaridis or Steve Jobs come from? How do we make sure it happens here in Canada?
These are the questions that our government has been working on. Today, I'd like to let you in on our strategy, the steps we have taken so far and the challenges we still face.
The global recession hit us hard. But we responded with Canada's Economic Action Plan. We made historic investments in infrastructure. We encouraged businesses to invest and helped them to avoid layoffs. We put substantial funding into skills training. We extended support for workers who lost their jobs.
And now, while many other countries around the world are still feeling serious effects from the recession, our response and economic leadership have put us in an enviable position.
Ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you I'm extremely proud of this fact.
I'm proud to say that since we introduced the Economic Action Plan, Canada has recovered more than all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession.
Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to implement our low-tax plan to create jobs and economic growth. That plan is working.
Today, 610,000 more Canadians are working than when the recession ended, resulting in the strongest rate of employment, by far, in the G7.
Significantly, nine out of ten positions created since July 2009 are full-time jobs. And the vast majority of those are in high-wage industries.
Not surprisingly, Canada's performance has caused others to sit up and take notice.
Both the IMF and the OECD, for example, forecast that Canada will have some of the strongest economic growth in the G7 over this year and next. The World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the strongest in the world for the fourth consecutive year. Three credit rating agencies—Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's—have all reaffirmed their top ratings for Canada.
And recently, Forbes magazine ranked Canada as the number one country in which to do business.
This is considerable praise. For its part, our government will continue with what has worked well—a balanced approach that includes a low-tax plan, paying down debt, reducing red tape, promoting free trade and encouraging innovation.
We know that our long-term economic competitiveness depends on supporting businesses that innovate and create jobs. Our government has invested in science and technology not only to create jobs and growth at home but also to encourage ingenuity for the benefit of this country and the world.
We're not unique in the problems we face. We can sell our solutions to the world—a world that has faced some difficult times over the past few years.
Support of science and technology has been a fundamental priority for us since 2006, including the introduction of our S&T strategy in 2007.
The S&T strategy is guided by the principle that innovation is driven by collaboration and the commercialization of ideas that emerge from the manufacturing floor or the university laboratory. The fact is, our strategy and our significant investments have sought to encourage partnerships among the private sector, academia and government.
Partnerships that are turning promising ideas into the groundbreaking products, processes and applications that create jobs and lead to economic growth.
Federal S&T expenditures reached $11.7 billion in 2010–11. We have demonstrated this commitment with every successive Economic Action Plan. These investments are making a difference.
That said, we all know that there is still work to do. There are still challenges ahead and areas where we need to do better.
For the most part, those challenges can be overcome if the public and private sectors fully embrace science, technology and innovation.
For our part, we will continue to make the key investments in science and technology necessary to sustain a modern, competitive economy.
As I said earlier, science and technology is essential to ensuring Canada is competitive around the world and prosperous in the new economy.
The Prime Minister summed it up best: Science powers commerce.
That's why our government recently made new investments to support leading-edge research, international collaborations and the creation of world-class research centres in Canada.
That is why we've enhanced funding support for researchers who are pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge as well as graduate and postgraduate students who are making the breakthroughs of tomorrow.
Facebook was started by a university student who saw a better way of connecting his peers through science and technology. Universities are communities where ideas are brought to life and problems find solutions.
To help foster this and ensure that Canada has the best and brightest, we have created new scholarships, such as the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships.
And we're funding the Canada Research Chairs program to the tune of $300 million annually, to support 2,000 researchers at post-secondary institutions across the country.
But despite these and other investments, we continue to face challenges.
Our private sector participation in research and development is still lagging. In fact, a report from the Science, Technology and Innovation Council noted it's actually limiting our overall performance in innovation.
Simply put, when businesses don't invest in R&D, it's harder for them to stay competitive.
It's harder for them to grow in the future, which means it's harder for the economy to create new jobs. This means a lower standard of living for Canadians.
Because we take this so seriously, our government asked an expert independent panel to look at the effectiveness and appropriate balance of our support for business R&D.
This panel, was headed by Tom Jenkins of Open Text. We received the panel's report last October, and while we may not adopt all of its recommendations as prescribed, we do agree with what it perceives to be the key problems, namely:
Again, while we may not follow all of its prescriptions, we do agree with the panel's general diagnosis and we will be taking action to address those problems.
We will act soon because we are committed to turning ideas and innovations into new marketable, competitive and beneficial products that result in jobs, growth and prosperity.
For example, the NRC is a Canadian icon. Established in 1916, it has had a tremendous history of accomplishment: a Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Gerhard Herzberg, the development of the pacemaker, firebrick, the hearing aid, the Meningitis vaccine and CANDU technology.
It also established the Canadian Astronaut Program that led to the Canadian Space Agency. It is home to IRAP and the parent of NSERC.
But as the NRC approached its centennial, weaknesses in its operating model became apparent.
For many years, the NRC's mandate had been broadened while its resources became more thinly distributed. It began to lose its focus and was being pulled in multiple, sometimes inconsistent, directions.
To some, the NRC had become a "loose federation of institutes," a set of facilities across Canada pursuing independent research interests and clients rather than working together as an integrated, high-performance team on high-impact and more customer-driven initiatives.
So, almost two years ago, our government appointed John McDougall as the NRC President to bring to bear his considerable experience, knowledge and professional perspective in reshaping the organization.
Since that time, our government has been taking steps to help refocus the NRC on areas where it can make the most effective contributions. And to do so in ways that will significantly improve Canada's innovation performance, re-affirm NRC's reputation and create a stable business model going forward.
The model being developed will be built on proven approaches used by successful global innovation players, carefully adapted to the Canadian reality.
It will be based on hands-on experience with multinational companies, small and medium-sized businesses, government agencies and academia.
We are working to make the NRC a world-class organization that is more effective in generating new jobs and growth for Canada through science, technology and innovation. And I think that this is a sure way to sustain and expand Canada's economy and prosperity for all Canadians in the years ahead.
Ladies and gentlemen, the ideas and innovations are out there. We need to help bring them to life.
We have world-renowned post-secondary institutions and leading-edge thinkers and researchers. The next Steve Jobs, Mike Lazaridis, Mark Zuckerberg or Jim Balsillie is probably walking on campus in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Kitchener, Quebec City or Halifax right now. We need to make sure that he or she has the tools and motivation to prosper here in Canada.
We have the business expertise and leadership that is so essential in taking ideas to the next level. We have the people with the skills, the drive and the desire to ensure we can thrive and grow now and into the future. We have what it takes to build a competitive advantage in the global economy that will result in jobs, growth and prosperity. We just have to be bold! And we will we will succeed in bringing minds to market!