Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, colleagues, for having me here today.
This is a pleasure.
I would first like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to the members of the committee today on the main estimates for the Department of Industry.
As you said, Mr. Chair, I am here with Richard Dicerni, Deputy Minister, Simon Kennedy, Senior Associate Deputy Minister, and Kelly Gillis, the department's Chief Financial Officer.
Industry Canada is part of a group of 10 agencies and councils, as well as the department, that report through me and two ministers of state.
As presented in the 2012-13 main estimates, the department anticipates a total of $1.3 billion in spending for the year, and the portfolio organizations together anticipate a total of just over $3.5 billion.
Our goal is to help make Canadian industry more productive and competitive by advancing three strategies: one, supporting business; two, fostering the knowledge-based economy; and three, advancing the marketplace.
Overall, we have made significant progress towards reaching our goals. As government members, we have taken action to support businesses and to create jobs across the country.
During the global recession, we have acted decisively to counter the downturn with a targeted action plan.
More Canadians are working now than before the downturn. Actually, over 610,000 net jobs have been created since July 2009. That is a testament to Canadians' efforts.
Over the past 10 years, the Canadian economy has seen stronger growth than any other G7 economy. And we continue to find ways to give Canadian businesses a competitive edge.
We have cut import tariffs on manufacturing equipment. We have reduced federal corporate taxes to 15%; we have the lowest tax rate on new business investments in the G7, which is also less than half the rate of our American neighbours.
We have extended the 50% capital cost allowance rate through the straight-line method for machinery and equipment.
We have also extended work-sharing agreements to help workers. We continue to support research and efforts to market innovation. Our net debt to GDP ratio is still the lowest in the G7.
Our accomplishments have been recognized around the world. Forbes magazine ranks Canada as the best place on the planet for businesses to grow and create jobs, the Economist Intelligence Unit has rated Canada the number one place to do business in the G-7 for the next three years, and both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast that our economy will be among the strongest in the G-7 this year and next.
This is all within the context of a low-tax plan that leaves more money in the hands of Canadians.
Today's meeting comes at an appropriate time. Over the past few weeks, we have had the opportunity to set in motion some key initiatives that are going to help us maximize our opportunities.
As you know, Canada is one of the few nations with the whole range of design and manufacturing capacities in the aerospace industry. With almost 80,000 high-level jobs, several of which are in small and medium-sized businesses, this industry has a significant impact on Canada.
The 2011 budget committed our government to reviewing programs and policies related to the aerospace and space industries. That is why we created a committee—which I announced last month in Montreal—to undertake this study. The committee will be chaired by the Hon. David Emerson, who will share with us his vast experience and expertise in the field.
This study will cover key features, such as trends in the global aerospace industry and their impact on the Canadian industry; key opportunities and challenges in this sector; the sector's strengths and weaknesses; and, finally, long-term objectives for a sustainable domestic industry.
Mr. Emerson's study will also deal with the issues related to the space industry. To that end, I have recently announced that Canada intends to renew its participation in the International Space Station. Our commitment will contribute to maintaining Canada's leadership role in space technologies. I am particularly proud that Chris Hatfield will be the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station during its mission, which is scheduled to start in December of this year.
I'll turn now to the automotive sector. It is the largest manufacturing sector in Canada, representing 12% of our manufacturing output and 20% of manufactured exports. In 2011, the auto industry directly employed more than 109,000 Canadians and created another 332,000 jobs indirectly.
That's why we have invested in the automobile sector, including in clean vehicle technologies. These investments are a catalyst for further private sector activity and innovation, and they foster Canadian competitiveness.
Beyond the sectors I've mentioned, we know that our competitiveness ultimately depends on supporting business innovation throughout the entire economy. That is why support for science and technology has been a priority for our government since 2006. To this end, Canada has invested heavily in science and technology. Federal science and technology expenditures reached $11.7 billion in 2011.
We have supported new world-class policies and programs and are expanding private sector participation in science and tech. We are building Canada's knowledge base and are successfully branding Canada as a destination of choice for talented, highly qualified S and T workers and students.
But, as you know, we could get better innovation results in our country. Private businesses in particular are lagging in innovation. That is the case despite our excellent record in research and development by higher-education institutions and despite our strong support for research and development by businesses.
Our government recognized this problem and it received a report this past fall from a panel of experts tasked with reviewing federal support in research and development. Over the past few months, we have gone over the report and, under the leadership of my colleague Minister of State Goodyear, we will soon take action to fix the problems identified in the report so as to strengthen Canada's global competitiveness in a broad range of sectors.
At the heart of the digital economy are information and communications technologies. Technology adoption boosts productivity, accelerates innovation, and generates new products and business models. To this end our government has launched the digital technology adoption pilot program to promote adoption by small businesses using community colleges as partners.
This complements recent initiatives by the BDC, which has set aside $200 million for loans to entrepreneurs to adopt ICTs and has created an online resource centre that offers technology tools for small businesses. We are also boosting our support to increase university capacity in key digital skills disciplines.
I'm also looking forward to this committee's report on e-commerce in Canada.
Speaking of the digital economy, I'd note the swift progress of the copyright committee chaired by our NDP colleague from Sudbury, Mr. Thibeault. I know that Mr. Regan, Mr. Lake, Mr. Braid and Mr. McColeman worked long hours on that committee as well.
Bill C-11 attempts to achieve a balance between the rights of consumers and creators. While all of us know finding that balance has been challenging, this legislation is about strengthening Canada's ability to compete in the global digital economy. It is important for this bill to be passed as quickly as possible.
Turning to telecommunications, just yesterday I was pleased to announce significant decisions for our wireless sector. We understand that Canadian families work hard for their money, and they want their government to make decisions that will help them keep more of it. The measures I outlined yesterday will ensure the timely availability of world-class wireless services at low prices for Canadian families, including those in rural areas.
These measures include lifting foreign investment restrictions for telecom companies with less than a 10% share of the market; applying caps in the upcoming 700 megahertz spectrum auctions; applying measures to ensure that rural Canadians have access to the same advanced services; slowing tower proliferation by improving and extending roaming and tower-sharing policies; and reserving a portion of the 700 megahertz spectrum for public safety users such as police and firefighters.
I am proud of the balance that has been reached with those decisions. As Canadians are increasingly relying on wireless technology, it is important that we make good decisions to provide prompt service with more choice and lower prices.
In addition to the legislative changes I mentioned earlier, we are moving towards strengthening other pieces of legislation and policies related to the economic framework. We have made a commitment to ensure that the review process under the Investment Canada Act continues to promote investment while providing a net benefit for Canadians.
Meanwhile, we are continuing to review the act, especially in terms of transparency, to make sure that it is balanced. We have to be clear that the purpose of the Investment Canada Act is to promote foreign investment in Canada. Our government strongly believes that free trade and the ability to attract investments to our country play a fundamental role, not only in our economic recovery, but also in our country's long-term success. As a result, when we bring forward proposals for change, the changes will be about promoting investment that will benefit Canada.
In addition to the work accomplished on the Investment Canada Act, we have also been successful in introducing Bill C-14, Improving Trade Within Canada Act.
We are also acting on a number of other fronts, such as moving forward with priority trade negotiations, including with the EU and India. We are cutting red tape in order to boost productivity and reduce the compliance burden on businesses, especially the small and medium-sized businesses that drive our communities, whether they are located in large cities like Edmonton—whose Chamber of Commerce I was pleased to meet with in the fall—or rural centres like my own town of Thetford Mines.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, I believe that those initiatives will contribute to strengthening the competitiveness of the Canadian economy and to support job creation and economic prosperity, which is at the heart of a strong Canada.
Thank you for your time. I will be pleased to answer any questions the members of the committee may have.