In the global, knowledge-based economy, the advantage goes to countries that are innovative, have high levels of productivity, quickly adopt the latest technology, invest in skills development for their citizens, and seek out new opportunities around the world.
Canadians have built a strong and dynamic economy. It is the cornerstone of our quality of life—providing Canada with the means to continue building a more equitable society, a healthier population, and stronger communities. In the space of only a few years, our nation's finances have gone from deficits and debt to balanced budgets, with low inflation and low interest rates. Laws and regulations have been modernized and the role of government in business decisions has been reduced.
The Government will continue to build a better environment for economic growth and enhanced productivity by reducing the debt burden, cutting taxes, and making strategic investments. Such investments will help small businesses grow, encourage trade, support citizens in developing the skills they need, and ensure that Canada has modern infrastructure.
The Government is committed to prudent fiscal management. It will never let the nation's finances get out of control again. It will keep the ratio of debt to GDP on a permanent downward track. It will deliver on the commitment it made at the beginning of this Parliament to devote half the budget surplus to debt repayment and tax relief, and the other half to investments that address the social and economic needs of Canadians.
As the nation's finances have improved, the Government has begun to deliver broad-based tax relief—totalling $16.5 billion over three years. As the nation's finances continue to improve, the Government will further reduce taxes to increase the disposable income of Canadians, enhance innovation and risk taking, and create a more robust economy.
Tax reduction is a key component of a strategy to increase individual incomes and to ensure an economy that produces the growth and wealth which enable those public and private investments necessary for a high quality of life.
In its next budget, the Government will set out a multi-year plan for further tax reduction.
Increased Trade and Investment
Canada's economy is more open than any of the leading industrialized countries. We are blessed with a population that comes from countries all over the world. Foreign markets for our goods and services provide us with new opportunities. Foreign investment provides us with capital, new ideas, new technologies, and innovative business practices.
To build on Canada's advantage, the Government will increase its trade promotion in strategic sectors with high export potential—sectors ranging from biotechnology and environmental and information technology to tourism, culture and health. It will also continue to support innovation and the development of new technologies in leading export sectors such as agriculture, agri-food and natural resources.
It will launch Investment Team Canada—a co-ordinated effort by all governments and the private sector to make the international community more aware of the unique opportunities for investment and growth in Canada. The Government will also modernize legislation to make it easier for global corporations to locate their headquarters in Canada.
The Government will use the upcoming round of World Trade Organization negotiations, including those on agriculture, to help build a more transparent, rules-based global trading system—one that ensures a level playing field, provides better access to world markets for Canadian companies in all sectors, and respects the needs of Canadians, our culture, and the environment. In addition, the Government will work with its partners in the hemisphere toward the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005.
Skills and Knowledge for the 21st Century
A skilled workforce and a capacity to innovate continuously are crucial building blocks of a successful 21st century economy.
Over the last three years, the Government has put in place a strategy to build on Canada's advantage as the country with the most highly educated workforce in the world. It has made it easier to save for a child's education. It will make college and university more affordable through Canada Millennium Scholarships. It has improved student debt relief and provided better tax assistance to finance lifelong learning.
We will continue to build on this strategy. The Government will forge partnerships with other governments, public- and private-sector organizations, and Canadian men and women to establish a national action plan on skills and learning for the 21st century. This plan will focus on lifelong learning, address the challenge of poor literacy among adults, and provide citizens with the information they need to make good decisions about developing their skills.
Over the next two years, the Government will work with its partners to:
enable skills development to keep pace with the evolving economy. This work will be led by the Sectoral Councils, which bring together representatives from business, labour, education and other professional groups to address human resource issues in important areas of the Canadian economy;
make it easier for Canadians to finance lifelong learning; and
provide a single window to Canada-wide information about labour markets, skills requirements and training opportunities—on the Internet, over the telephone or in person in communities across the country.
To ensure that the Public Service of Canada remains a strong, representative, professional and non-partisan national institution that provides Canadians the highest quality service into the 21st century, the Government will also focus on the recruitment, retention and continuous learning of a skilled federal workforce.
Infrastructure for the 21st Century
For Canada to generate jobs, growth and wealth, it must have a leading, knowledge-based economy that creates new ideas and puts them to work for Canadians. To do this, it is essential to connect Canadians to each other, to schools and libraries, to governments, and to the marketplace—so they can build on each other's ideas and share information. Achieving this objective will require new types of infrastructure.
Improving Canada's knowledge infrastructure means supporting a new generation of leaders, attracting the best researchers, and encouraging our graduates to put their talents to work here at home.
The Government will introduce the legislation necessary to create the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. These institutes will provide a model for world-leading research, bringing together for the first time all the researchers who have an impact on health to undertake shared research priorities. This innovative approach recognizes the importance of collaborative research for improving the health and well-being of Canadians and for building a high-quality health system.
The Government of Canada has for many years been one of the most important contributors to research at Canadian universities. In the last two years, the Government has pursued an ambitious agenda to improve its support for advanced research in Canada. To build on this agenda, the Government will:
increase its support to the Granting Councils, enabling them to forge new partnerships with our universities to attract the best research minds in the world through an innovative program of 21st Century Chairs for Research Excellence;
foster greater international research collaboration by Canadian universities and institutes and expand Canadian expertise in such areas as genomics, climate change, and advanced engineering; and
find new markets for new products and services developed through research by universities and government research centres.
The Government will also ensure that it has a modern and effective research and science capacity to promote the health, safety and economic well-being of Canadians.
Improving Canada's information infrastructure will support the exchange of ideas and the conduct of business over computer networks, connect Canadians to the information highway, and accelerate the adoption of electronic commerce. The Government will:
take steps to make Canada a centre of excellence for electronic commerce and encourage its use throughout the economy;
re-introduce legislation to protect personal and business information in the digital world and to recognize electronic signatures; and
provide increased access to high-speed Internet service for classrooms and libraries and stimulate the production of Canadian multimedia learning content and applications. This will build on the success of SchoolNet.
The Government will become a model user of information technology and the Internet. By 2004, our goal is to be known around the world as the government most connected to its citizens, with Canadians able to access all government information and services on-line at the time and place of their choosing. We will build on a pilot project now under way to make www.access.ca a personal gateway to government information and community content on the Internet, and we will encourage all Canadians to make use of this address.
Our knowledge-based economy is more than high-tech companies. It is an economy in which all sectors strive to use leading technologies and processes. It is an economy in which old barriers to access or of distance matter less—where technology enables urban and rural communities from the Atlantic to the West to the North to compete globally, and where technology opens new doors to all Canadians. It is an economy in which rural Canada also benefits from value-added activity, environmentally astute land management, and new job skills and opportunities. It is an economy in which clusters of technology development already exist in smaller communities all over Canada. Indeed, it is an economy in which technology can lead to greater economic stability for the primarily rural regions in which cyclical resource industries—agriculture, fisheries, forestry, mining and tourism—are the dominant sources of wealth. The Government will encourage the development and adoption of new technologies in all sectors.
The strength of Canada is reflected in its rich diversity. Across this country, Canada's culture comes alive through our writers, singers and performers, through our filmmakers and artists, and through those who chronicle our history and preserve our heritage.
New technologies offer new opportunities to strengthen the bonds between Canadians. The Government will bring Canadian culture into the digital age, linking 1,000 institutions across the country to form a virtual museum of Canada. It will put collections from the National Archives, National Library and other key institutions on-line. It will also increase support for the production of Canadian stories and images in print, theatre, film, music and video. In particular, it will increase support for the use of new media.
Canada must also continue to improve its physical infrastructure for the 21st century. To increase trade and economic growth, we must ensure that we have the capacity to move people and goods safely and efficiently. To maintain the quality of life in our cities and rural communities, we must ensure that we have clean air and water.
The Government will work with other levels of government and the private sector to reach—by the end of the year 2000—agreement on a five-year plan for improving physical infrastructure in urban and rural regions across the country. This agreement will set out shared principles, objectives and fiscal parameters for all partners to increase their resources directed toward infrastructure. It will focus on areas such as transport, tourism, telecommunications, culture, health and safety, and the environment.
Health and Quality Care for Canadians
Good health and quality care are essential to the well-being of all Canadians and are part of our strength in today's global marketplace. Advances in technology, research and information are opening tremendous new opportunities for improving the health and well-being of citizens.
Canadians expect their governments to work together to ensure that Canada's health care system is modern and sustainable. The Government recently reaffirmed its commitment to medicare by investing an additional $11.5 billion to modernize the health system for the beginning of the 21st century. The Government will continue to move forward with its provincial and territorial partners and the health care community on common priorities.
With its partners, the Government will support the testing of innovations in integrated service delivery in areas such as home care and pharmacare, working toward a health system in which all parts operate seamlessly. As the results of these innovations become available, we will be better able to make informed decisions about the next significant investments in health—ensuring that our health system meets the evolving needs of all Canadians.
A modern health information system will give health professionals and individual citizens improved access to up-to-date information about health issues and treatment options. The Government will ensure that citizens in every region of the country have access to such information so they can make better-informed decisions.
The Government will protect the health of Canadians by strengthening Canada's food safety program, by taking further action on environmental health issues, including the potential health risks presented by pesticides, and by modernizing overall health protection for a changing world.
We will also continue to address the serious health problems in Aboriginal communities, supporting their efforts to promote wellness and to strengthen the delivery of health services.