The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Opening of Discovery 2017

Toronto, Ontario, Monday, May 15, 2017


It’s my pleasure to be here at the opening of Discovery 2017.

Innovation has been top of mind lately.

Last month, for example, marked the release of Ingenious, a book I had the pleasure of writing with Tom Jenkins—who I understand will be a panelist this afternoon.

Ingenious tells the sometimes surprising story of Canadian innovation through the ground-breaking innovations that Canadians played a key role in.

From the canoe to the BlackBerry.

From hockey to insulin.

From the Canadarm that reaches out in the vastness of space to the whoopee cushion, which does something drastically different.

As you can see, we’ve certainly made a wide range of discoveries and innovations!

Though I knew how ingenious Canadians were and continue to be, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to decide what to include in our book. There are many other entries we could have incorporated, and that list is growing every day!

Just look around here to see the proof of that. Discovery 2017 is not only a place to learn, but it’s also a showcase for new and exciting technologies and ideas.

Exploring the floor here will open up your minds to new possibilities and perhaps may even spark a “eureka” moment of your own.

We so often see how encouraging collaboration, exchanging with others, and encountering new ideas can spark great innovation.

The Ontario Centres of Excellence helps promote innovation growth by bridging the gap between businesses, governments, universities and research institutions.

They know that working together, pooling our talents is the path to success.

We can look back on our history to see how accurate that is.

Take Alexander Graham Bell, for instance, who immigrated to Canada in his 20s. He is often credited with the invention of the telephone, but in reality, he was well aware of his limitations—in electrical engineering, for one. Thus, he gathered around him a team of knowledgeable experts in Nova Scotia to help him bring his idea to life.

This was perhaps one of the first “innovation hubs” in Canada!

Today, the idea of hubs continues to influence how we think.

Canadians understand that a changing market requires a change in our thinking. Innovation hubs represent a partnership model, one where academia, government, businesses and organizations such as the OCE can work together to address challenges and to invest in new research and development. Clusters like these are a great opportunity to do things differently, to create jobs and prospects that will help the next generation get the skills they need to succeed in the future.

We need only look at the Toronto-Waterloo Region Corridor to confirm how successful hubs can be. The corridor stretches 112 kilometres and is the second largest technology cluster in North America.

Just consider what it offers:

  • 15 000 tech companies, including Google, Amazon, Shopify, IBM and BlackBerry, and more than 5 000 tech start ups
  • Some 200 000 tech workers and a combined population of 6 million people
  • 16 world-class universities and colleges
  • One of the most diverse regions in the world, with about 150 languages spoken 

Although there’s still a long way to go, we’re making great progress on expanding our innovation culture.

This conference is another “hub” of information, albeit a temporary one. But what it allows you to do is to network with new organizations—some of which you may have never encountered otherwise—and learn something that can lead to even greater discoveries.

In addition, you are opening the doors to our discoveries, both to Canada and to the world.

As a result, investors and innovators alike from all over the world are given a chance to see Canadian ingenuity. And, as we’ve seen, the successes we achieve with our ideas expand significantly when we work together across borders, and even across disciplines.

Rather than occurring in isolation, innovation is about sharing ideas, refining and testing them. And it is about asking questions.

Why is something like this instead of that?

What if we were to add X to Y?

Or, to put it in the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Some people see things as they are and wonder ‘Why?’ We dream of things that ought to be and ask, ‘Why not?’”

In Canada, we have asked “why not” for centuries, constantly pushing ourselves to go further, to do more, to be better.

Ideas, after all, can very quickly multiply.

Consider that we now generate and store online 2.5 exabytes of computer data every day.

That means that every two days, we’re uploading more data than has been printed in all of human history!

That also means there is a near-infinite number of ideas to combine, change, refine, test and improve to benefit some societal need.

I know we’re up to the challenge!

I’ve seen how creative and ingenious we can be, and how dogged we can be in chasing excellence. In fact, it is the pursuit of excellence that informs what we do and how we do it.

As governor general, I’ve made it a priority to encourage excellence in Canadian innovation, and we will do just that when we present the Governor General’s Innovation Awards next week. We will honour some of Canada’s best and most innovative with these awards.

I recently spoke with the recipients and was impressed with their incredible ingenuity and the way they’re putting it to use in addressing important issues.

Gerhard Herzberg—Canadian scientist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry—once said to students at the University of Manitoba:

“Your aim should be to make Canada a country that is recognized throughout the world, and throughout history, as a country that has advanced in a significant way the progress of sciences, art and literature.”

Like Gerhard Herzberg, the OCE wants Canadians to innovate and to be recognized for their ingenuity. They want our excellence to shine.

Worldwide, Canadians are being recognized for their work in growing numbers. I’ve seen how talented we are. And I’ve travelled to more than 25 countries, where I’ve found Canadians partnering with local communities to improve lives and create greater opportunities.

Our innovative nation relies on people like all of you, the creators and big thinkers of Canada, to reach new heights and to build the sustainable innovation ecosystem that will bring us to the forefront of discovery.

I look forward to learning about your work here that will benefit Ontario, Canada and the world.

Thank you.