Mr. Speaker, let me begin by welcoming you to your new position. I know that you will bring distinction to the Chair as you have as a critic for your party in the past. As I recall, part of the time you were criticising my portfolio, but always in a very positive and constructive way.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the constituents of my riding of Ottawa South for re-electing me for a third term. It is a great honour to be able to represent them again here in the House of Commons.
I am also grateful to the Prime Minister for giving me the opportunity to continue as Minister of Industry. In fulfilling this role over the last four years, I have had the opportunity to meet with business people across Canada in all sectors of industry. I have had a unique opportunity to see firsthand the entrepreneurship and dynamism of Canadians at work from coast to coast.
I am entirely enthusiastic about my portfolio and proud of the public servants who work in it with me.
My objective today, in setting out the government's program to this House, is to explain our vision of Canada's economic and social development in a global knowledge-based economy.
What our government set out in the Speech from the Throne is nothing more and nothing less than a new economic framework for Canada, a framework based on one idea: seizing the opportunities presented by the global knowledge economy in order to create jobs and wealth in all economic sectors, ranging from high technology to services and primary resources.
With our vision we will bring into the XXI century a Canada that is united and built on solid economic and social foundations. Our vision will bring Canadians, ourselves included, face to face with the challenge of being the best in the world.
A new global economy based on knowledge, technology and innovation is rapidly emerging. Led by dramatic improvements in computing and communications, this knowledge based economy is changing the determinants of success for individuals, companies, regions and countries. It is breaking the barriers of time and distance, and it is magnifying the role international developments play in our prosperity.
These changes are allowing individuals and businesses to operate across borders, around the world, at the speed of light: sharing knowledge, trading in goods, services and capital 24 hours a days, 7 days a week.
In this emerging new economy, more than ever people and innovations are the keys to growth and wealth creation. The knowledge economy is transforming all industrial sectors from agriculture and natural resources through manufacturing to retail and services. As we move into the new century the new economy will affect the life and work of every person, every business, every community and every organization in Canada.
There is no question that change goes hand and hand with uncertainty. The changing world of work and the introduction of new technologies have left many wondering whether they and their children will occupy a productive and rewarding place in the new economy. But change goes hand in hand with new opportunities.
In an economy based on knowledge and innovation, many Canadians see outlets for their ideas and new horizons for their children. They see new ways of communicating with others throughout the entire world as well as right next door, and new ways of improving their community and enriching their lives.
A key objective of our economic agenda must be to ease the uncertainty of those Canadians who need to adjust to the changing economy and, at the same time, to help every Canadian take advantage of emerging opportunities and realize their full potential.
We have a solid foundation to build on. We are, as we often repeat, according to the United Nations development index, the best country in the world in which to live. With the help of all Canadians our economic fundamentals are now the best they have been in 35 years.
Our focus now must be to construct real opportunities on the foundations already laid. We are already positioned to be a world leader in the global knowledge economy of the 21st century. We have the people, we have the resources, we have the technology and we have the infrastructure.
But having such assets is not enough. We have to mobilize our resources toward a clear objective of being the best. Looking ahead to the millennium, we have an opportunity to explore new horizons, set new goals for our country and work together to reach those goals.
The government's agenda as outlined in the Speech from the Throne sets out clearly the actions that we will take and the partnerships we will forge to ensure that Canada realizes its potential in the new economy of the 21st century.
We are implementing an innovative strategy built on four themes. The first is that of connecting Canadians. Our goal is to make Canada the most connected country in the world, making sure that all Canadians can have access to the electronic highway and information economy by the year 2000. This is perhaps the single most important action that government can take to ensure success in the knowledge based economy.
Through a national strategy designed to provide access to the information and knowledge infrastructure we can enable individuals, rural communities, aboriginal communities, small and large businesses alike to find new opportunities for learning, interacting, transacting and developing their economic and social potential.
By connecting rural and remote communities through public access sites across Canada, we are giving these communities the tools to help further their economic and social development and make the most of their existing resources to tap new markets and create new job opportunities for their citizens.
By connecting all of Canada's 22,000 schools, libraries and learning institutions, we will make life-long learning an affordable reality for Canadians while Canada becomes a laboratory for the creation of interactive, multimedia learning software and networks.
By creating the best environment for electronic commerce, Canada can become a world leader in this emerging field, leading to increased investment in electronic networks and growth in areas such as electronic transactions, multimedia products and on-line services.
By connecting Canadians to the information highway, we will create a demand for digital content, which could strengthen Canada's cultural identity and create new economic opportunities.
By putting government services on-line, we can facilitate communications between government and the people like never before. Government services will be available to Canadians wherever they are 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
By connecting Canadians to each other, to their institutions and governments and to the rest of the world, we will all better understand who we are and Canadians will have the tools they need to maximize their potential.
These are only some of the many advantages we will enjoy when we link up with the new economy.
The second theme is realizing our international potential. Increasingly our prosperity is dependent on making the most of our international opportunities. One in three Canadian jobs depends on trade and every $1 billion increase in exports generates 8,000 new jobs.
With team Canada we have improved our trade and investment performance but there is still much more that we must do to secure Canada's place in the global economy. Building on the team Canada success, we will consult with our industrial partners to further broaden our trading base outward in the world. We are already extending our team Canada approach to help Canadian businesses prepare at home to compete and win in international markets.
Through Investment Partnerships Canada, we are working with industry on a focused marketing campaign in priority markets to attract investment to Canada by multinational firms because investment equal jobs.
The third theme is investing in innovation and knowledge. Last year 12 of Canada's top thinkers on science and technology were appointed to the Prime Minister's Advisory Council on Science and Technology. Part of their advice was:
A high level of investment, excellence in education, accelerated innovation through science and technology and an increased emphasis on the commercialization of science and technology, will spur job creation and generate increases in the standard of living for Canadians.
We are taking this advice to heart. We must promote those knowledge intensive sectors where we are already strong, where the opportunity for growth and global leadership is highest, and where the opportunities for young Canadians are the greatest.
Canada has winning sectors, sectors on which we can build and grow to world leadership, for example, aerospace, environmental technologies, biotechnology and telecommunications and information technologies. Together with industry we will set goals and targets to improve Canada's global ranking in these and other sectors.
We also believe there is enormous growth potential for traditional sectors such as forestry, mining and agriculture to innovate and adapt information technology and biotechnology to improve productivity, to reach new markets and to develop new products.
By investing in Canada's research facilities and government and university laboratories we will maintain one of the best research and development infrastructures in the world. We will also improve and expand the knowledge base that individuals and businesses need in order to succeed. We will see our $800 million investment in the Canada foundation for innovation used to leverage additional private and public sector investments to renew and expand the research infrastructure at Canadian universities and teaching hospitals.
Last year the government established technology partnerships Canada to make fully repayable investments in innovative firms that are developing leading edge knowledge based technologies. We need to continue to use the leverage of this successful program to ensure that more products with high growth potential in key sectors reach the world marketplace.
We will build on the National Research Council's highly respected industrial research assistance program, winner of the prestigious Ernest C. Manning award, to help small and medium size businesses to develop and commercialize new technologies. We will increase the participation of Canadians in the new economy.
Supporting innovative companies and building knowledge infrastucture is not enough in itself. True competitive advantage in the knowledge economy is achieved only through developing the brains and skills of our people. The transition to the new economy is not automatic. Some Canadians will be better prepared than others to take advantage of these opportunities, and some Canadians will need help to rise to the challenges. The government is committed to making a difference so that all Canadians can participate fully in and benefit from the new economy.
Canadians are among the most well educated people in the world but the knowledge economy both challenges us and offers opportunity to ensure that quality education is accessible and affordable to every Canadian. The prime minister announced a key part of our response to this challenge last week. The Canada millennium endowment fund will invest in academic excellence and will provide thousands of scholarships each year to help give Canadians access to universities and colleges.
We will also develop new programs to help young Canadians acquire the experience and marketable skills to take advantage of the opportunities in today's job market. We will focus aboriginal business investment programs on more long term strategic investment opportunities for all aboriginal peoples. This will help to develop and strong and resilient economic base and foster partnerships among federal, provincial and aboriginal governments and the private sector.
We will help rural communities diversify their economies and capitalize on new business opportunities by supporting their efforts to identify and build on their strengths to acquire and use new technology and to strengthen small and medium size businesses to create new jobs for rural Canadians.
Canada will prosper in the global knowledge based economy. We will have the opportunity to enrich our lives, create jobs, promote prosperity and ensure a future for our children.
If we look toward the future, we see a Canada in which the harsh reality of economic change gives way to new opportunities, a Canada where jobs and growth support a stronger society, a stronger nation.
We see Canadians connected to other Canadians. We see a Canada where children in an Inuit community in Nunavut can interact over the Internet with children in a First Nations school in Ontario, a Canada where an electronic trade information service connects a Nova Scotia telecommunications business with an Alberta partner to bring its product to market in South America, and a Canada where citizens in the Saguenay use their website to connect with fellow citizens in Manitoba on the challenges of rebuilding a community. We see a Canada where more and more Canadians can maximize their potential and realize their dreams.
Whether they live in rural Canada, in a city, on the east coast, on the west coast or anywhere in between, Canadians deserve a government that is innovative, ready to lead and ready to advance new efforts to secure their future in a new economy. By connecting Canadians, by realizing our international potential, by investing in innovation and knowledge, and by increasing the participation of Canadians in the new economy we are acting to turn the promise of a new century into new opportunity for all Canadians.