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The Honourable Christian Paradis, PC, MP
Minister of Industry
Toronto, Ontario June 5, 2012
Check Against Delivery
Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. It's great to be with you again.
I can't believe that it was only a year ago that I attended this summit and gave my first speech as Minister of Industry.
Since then, I have travelled across the country and met many of you face to face. These meetings, in addition to my public consultations, laid the groundwork for the many actions we have taken in the past year.
Much of what I heard was positive:
I also heard about some ongoing issues and challenges:
These are important challenges, because we know that digital infrastructure and technology are critical to success in today's economy.
Going forward, we must continue to support robust investment, innovation and consumer choice in our telecom sector.
I know that we can rise to the challenge.
But each of us has a role to play. Our creators and innovators need to develop the new technologies that will propel the industry forward. Our service providers need to connect Canadians from coast to coast with new services. And we, as a government, need to provide the support the sector needs to grow and thrive.
Last year, I referred to the telecom industry as "the foundation of our digital economy." That's as true today, as we see 4G networks roll out.
As Canadians are doing more and more with their wireless devices, wireless use is growing exponentially. Demand grows with each new generation of BlackBerry and each new tablet. That puts pressure on networks and, in turn, dramatically increases the need for spectrum.
Last year, I told you that we would release additional spectrum. And I was happy to deliver on that promise.
As you know, we have announced new auctions for the 700 and 2500 MHz bands. And to support competition and investment, we'll be applying caps in both auctions. This will enable at least four companies in each licence area to secure spectrum. It will also support competition in the market and greater choice for Canadians.
Last year, I also reported that we were reviewing our tower sharing and roaming policy. As you know, we've taken action here as well, through current consultations with the industry and through concrete changes that will increase transparency and improve key provisions.
In addition to access to spectrum, I know that you also need access to capital in order to grow and expand. Last year, I personally committed to improving your access to foreign capital. We started by lifting foreign investment restrictions for companies holding less than 10 percent of market share.
We have also committed $400 million to create large-scale venture capital funds—led by you, the private sector.
This was in addition to the $100 million for the Business Development Bank of Canada's (BDC) venture capital activities.
And let's not forget that Canadian telecom providers invest over $8 billion a year to provide us with faster and more robust services.
But despite these investments, there remains a gap between rural and urban access to leading-edge broadband. Canada can do better.
In order to succeed, rural Canadians need access to the same services as urban Canadians. That's why our government invested in Broadband Canada: Connecting Rural Canadians. This program will bring faster Internet service to nearly 220,000 households across the country.
We have also included rural deployment obligations as part of the 700 MHz spectrum auction.
Our government has taken action. And now we look to you, our service providers, to deliver higher speeds, extend your footprints and help close the rural–urban gap.
All of the steps we have taken are aimed at creating new innovative companies and encouraging the use of more technologies.
Since receiving the Jenkins panel report, we have implemented several of its recommendations to spur technology development.
We have set aside $110 million a year for the National Research Council of Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program. This doubles the support available to small and medium-sized firms. Telecommunications and technology companies are likely to benefit significantly from this new funding.
But in a digital world, even the greatest tools don't do much good unless they're used. We are encouraging our small and medium-sized businesses to adopt technologies through the BDC's Smart Tech web services and loans initiative and the $80-million Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program.
And the government is becoming a first customer through the Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program, which allows companies to bridge the pre-commercialization gap for their innovative goods and services. In doing so, we provide them with credibility and open up new markets for their products.
Put simply, to be a productive, world-leading economy, Canadian companies need to invest more in technology.
This was a central theme in my meetings with my provincial and territorial counterparts. And this is my challenge to you, our telecommunications and technology leaders.
You know adoption is key to competitiveness, both here and internationally.
And while I—and my colleagues—may champion the issue, you also have a role to play.
We are also building a modern legal framework that will protect consumers and businesses alike. We have started by:
Taken together, these initiatives are transforming the legal landscape. And we will continue to ensure that our country's laws adapt to the realities of a digital economy.
I believe that real progress has been made on many fronts since we last met.
But the work is not done. We are still developing a Canadian digital economy strategy.
And I am committed to delivering it by the end of the year.
I know we have faced some tough challenges in recent years. But we've come through them, due in no small part to your ideas, imagination and innovation.
Our government will continue to support your efforts, because we know that at the end of the day, it is really up to you to lead the push into the digital economy, make the key investments and create the jobs and generate the prosperity that will propel us forward.
Together, let us capture the potential of the global digital economy. Let us create its technology, make the best possible use of its potential and reap its benefits.
I truly look forward to seeing what we can accomplish by the time I stand in front of you next year.