The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy

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Ottawa, Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Let me begin by thanking the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy as well as The Royal Canadian Geographical Society for inviting me to join you today.

When John F. Kennedy addressed Congress for the first time as President, he began by saying, “it is a pleasure to return from whence I came.” I must confess to those same sentiments here today.

More than twenty years ago, I was privileged to serve as the Round Table’s founding chair. So it is particularly meaningful to me that my first official public event as Governor General should be here with all of you.

One of the pleasant duties of my new office is to serve as Patron of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, an organization I have long admired and faithfully followed through its wonderful publications, including Canadian Geographic and géographica. I look forward to understanding even more fully the work of the Society as it makes “Canada better known to Canadians and to the world”.

The stated mission of the Round Table is, and I quote, “to generate and promote sustainable development solutions to advance Canada’s national environmental and economic interests simultaneously, through the development of innovative policy research and advice.”

It is a mission rooted in a clear-eyed understanding that our desire for a modern economy and our duty to a sustainable environment are not mutually exclusive—they are mutually reinforcing. Indeed, one requires the other.

Since its creation in 1988, the Round Table has carried out that mission with energy and creativity—undertaking exhaustive research, bringing together diverse interests, rallying the brightest minds and providing unbiased advice to governments. I am proud of what we began together.

And the durability of 22 years is a signal in itself of the importance and utility of the work and the dedication of each of you.

The important collaboration we celebrate today—on climate change—addresses an issue that will define our times and, in a very real sense, determine our future. Climate change is no longer a matter for academic debate alone—it is a matter for public discussion and public policy. 

It is an issue with which I have been involved not only as a member of the Round Table, but also during my time in academia. As President of the University of Waterloo, I was honoured to help establish the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change, to mention just one of at least a dozen such institutions at the University, focused on climate change in one way or another. I can assure you that climate change is something that I will continue to follow and study with much interest.

The Climate Prosperity initiative embodies the best traditions of the Round Table—prompting discussion, providing context and prodding action. It is also an outstanding example of the power of partnerships. Of what can be accomplished when organizations and individuals of diverse skills but common interests come together to create something special, something unique. 

I hope every Canadian has the opportunity to read the magazine issues you are releasing today and to join in this critical conversation.

As a lifelong educator, I am particularly impressed with your efforts to reach out to students across Canada—providing lesson plans, raising awareness and enlisting the enthusiasm and imagination of our young people. For we will surely need them. Not only because they can bring fresh perspectives and energy, but because of their ability to imagine a better world.

For as the native American proverb reminds us, “We are more than the sum of our knowledge, we are the products of our imagination.” To find the answers to climate change we will need both knowledge and imagination. We will need the input of the next generation. And we will need more of the kind of partnerships we celebrate today.

So congratulations again to all of you on this wonderful initiative—and thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.