Milken Institute Global Conference Canadian CEO Dinner (Los Angeles, California)
Los Angeles, California, Monday, April 28, 2014
I am pleased to be here with you this evening. Thank you, Mr. Villeneuve, for hosting us here at the official residence of Canada.
One of the reasons I am here in Los Angeles this week is to take part in the Milken Global Conference, in which Canada plays an important role.
I would like to commend and congratulate the staff of the Consulate General here in Los Angeles for their work in broadening Canada’s participation in this conference over the past seven years. Thanks to their efforts, Canadian businesses have more opportunities to make an impact alongside some of the biggest names in the United States’ economy.
I look forward to sitting in on some of the discussions taking place tomorrow and meeting with Canadians and Americans who are working together to create success.
Joining us at tonight’s event are leaders from both Canada and the United States. You come from diverse places, and diverse fields, but you are all committed to one thing: the growth of Canada-U.S. trade and investment.
An evening like this—indeed a conference such as this one—is an excellent opportunity to engage in dialogue. After all, even with the advent of modern and sophisticated communication tools, nothing can replace face-to-face discourse.
And there is so much for us to discuss.
As some of the foremost business leaders in our two countries, you know quite well the sheer mass of trade between Canada and the United States. Although you may already be familiar with these numbers, I would like to highlight some of them:
- The Canada-U.S. bilateral trade relationship is worth more than $2 billion dollars per day.
- More than 8 million U.S. jobs depend on Canada-U.S. trade.
- Here in California, our bilateral trade in 2013 amounted to $43.1 billion; Canada is California’s second largest export market.
- California is a huge consumer of Canadian food, technology and energy.
- More than 1 million Canadians live, work and thrive in all areas of the Californian economy—including, if I may add, seeing as we are close to Hollywood, some of today’s leading actors, directors, producers and technical experts.
These numbers are simply staggering. It shows how interconnected our economies have become, and how important it is for us to succeed together, not just individually. So many people in both our countries rely on our close friendship, and California is one of the most important states in which this relationship is fostered.
However, these large numbers should not be an invitation for us to rest on our laurels. There are so many ways in which we can further our collaboration.
What, then, can Canada bring to the table?
Let me list some of the elements which make Canada a particularly attractive place to live, learn, work and do business in.
An historical emphasis on equality of opportunity and a determination to see equality of opportunity and excellence as mutually reinforcing, not competing qualities.
A public education system which has led to 51 per cent of the population attaining a college or university education, the highest among OECD countries. Canada has the highest post-secondary participation rates in the world. Canadian primary school students lead all English-speaking nations in the OECD’s achievement rankings.
Three universities in the global top 40 according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Canadian university researchers are prolific publishers, and their research is of high quality. In 2010, with a share of only 0.5 per cent of global population, Canada accounted for 4.4 per cent of the world’s natural sciences and engineering publications. This puts us eighth in the world in absolute terms. And we are strong collaborators: almost one-half of science and engineering articles by Canadians were international co-publications, and about one-half of that international collaboration was from U.S. scholars.
An officially bilingual country with a multicultural tradition. More languages are actively spoken in Toronto than any other world city.
Our largest cities are consistently rated by UN agencies as amongst the most liveable cities in the world.
Strong social mobility. An OECD study that ranked member nations on the degree to which children exceeded the educational levels of their parents found that, for the top 80 per cent of students, Canada was ranked number one.
A Westminster parliamentary system and a federally chartered banking system that generally produces stable, progressive economic and social policies and the world’s number one banking system.
I don’t list these facts in any boastful way, but rather as a means to reinforce our global advantage.
Let me go back to our post-secondary schools for a moment.
Education, to me, is very important, particularly equality of education and excellence.
In a 2011 report by Statistics Canada, the average Canadian household expenditure for post-secondary school was $4,674, with the provinces providing anywhere between half and 70% of a university’s funding. With affordable tuition, scholarships and student assistance programs, Canada is doing everything in its power to ensure that young Canadians have the right experience and the knowledge they need to make an impact.
And we want to share this with others outside our country, which we are doing and doing well. In fact, Canada is the most immigrant receptive country in the world. In 2012, Canada accepted over 250 000 permanent residents, adding to our total population of more than 35 million. And that doesn’t count the over 1 million temporary residents, more than 300 000 of which were foreign students attending schools in Canada.
Consider, as well, that half of all immigrants to Canada have or will obtain, at the very least, an undergraduate degree.
We are building this learning capacity as much for our own sake as for the world’s, and we are doing it with the co-operation of every sector of society, including businesses such as those you represent.
Let me give you an example.
For many wonderful years, I had the privilege of serving as principal of McGill University, in Montréal. One of the projects I worked on was to help establish a part-time co-op professional master’s degree program in engineering.
The program was developed in collaboration with five other regional universities and the local aerospace industry, which had set the project in motion by presenting us with a specific problem: in the absence of a sufficient number of qualified Canadian employees, companies were being forced to recruit talent from abroad.
Furthermore, after gaining valuable work experience in Quebec, many of those foreign employees soon returned to their home countries or left for other destinations, leaving Canada’s aerospace sector with a constant shortage of workers.
The solution was to cultivate a workforce in Canada that was able to fill those jobs. Once we had identified the goal, we worked towards it through constant communication and close collaboration. This was a key component in the remarkable achievements of Quebec’s aerospace industry. This partnership was formed with familiar names in the industry, including Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney, CAE and Air Canada, to name a few. I equate this type of collaboration to a peloton in bicycle racing.
When I talk about Canada’s intellectual supply chain, this example demonstrates exactly what I mean: people with the proper skills and experience translating ideas into concrete action. Canadians are providing the links everywhere on that chain—from conception to production, from marketing to sales, from research to innovation.
In this case, the investment of time and money came from sectors which saw a need and created a solution alongside universities. It is this type of investment that has allowed us to stay strong and competitive.
And we can see this paying off in very tangible ways for both our countries. For example, SpaceX’s Dragon successfully docked at the International Space Station not two weeks ago thanks to the assistance provided by the Canadarm2. Just think about that for a moment: Canadian technology lending a helping hand—almost literally—to American knowledge and ingenuity.
What this type of collaboration leads to is the international capital exchange that I referenced earlier: not only sharing our resources abroad, but also exchanging knowledge, best practices and investment opportunities that will prove mutually beneficial.
And, as you know, there is global demand for that expertise.
It was no accident that Canada has been able to weather the recent economic crisis and emerge as a fierce global competitor. Not only do Canadians demonstrate competence and talent, we have also proven resilient in the face of challenging times. This success has attracted much attention.
For instance, the strength of our banking system and our economy, which I mentioned earlier, were the impetus for the Bank of England to recruit Mark Carney to the position of governor, after successfully serving the Bank of Canada in that same capacity.
Let me give you some other key indicators of our competitive edge, as well as why Canada is a great place in which to do business.
According to the World Bank, of all the G-7, Canada is the easiest place in which to start a business. In addition, our growth in business investment has been the strongest during the recent recession and recovery. With low unemployment, a friendly business environment, a growing innovation ecosystem, and our capacity to learn, there is no greater time to invest in Canada.
Let me end by sharing with you just one example of the best reason to invest in the future of Canada.
Alex Deans is a 16 year old from Windsor, Ontario, and was recently named one of “Canada’s future leaders of 2014” by Maclean’s magazine. He is fascinated by science and new technologies—among other interests—and has an innate desire to help people.
Alex developed iAid, a navigation tool that uses ultrasonic sensors and joystick controls to help the visually impaired. This is such an impressive achievement that he has been selected as one of several Canadian representatives at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which will take place right here in Los Angeles in just a few weeks’ time.
Why tell this to you? Because someone here may provide the support in the future that will allow Alex, or other Canadians like him, to continue to develop new ways of making this world a better place to live.
When you invest in people like Alex, invest in our education, invest in Canada, we all reap the rewards.
Michael Milken, whose name graces this conference, once said: “We cannot have a strong private enterprise system without a strong society—we are all affected by the success, or failure, of each other.”
Canada has created an outward-looking nation, one that is constantly striving to foster collaboration in every sphere, and one that has the talent pool and network setup needed to ensure both our countries achieve continued progress.
I hope that by the end of my visit to the United States, I will have left behind the message of how important working together truly is; it is both the smart thing to do and the necessary thing to do.
I wish everyone a wonderful evening and urge all of you to continue finding ways to reinvent and renew our close friendship. There is so much potential for us to do more. Let us explore every avenue of success together.