- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 23 Apr 1987, p. 410-420
- Peterson, The Honourable David, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A joint meeting with The Canadian Club of Toronto. The uneveness of Ontario's comparative economic boom, with some details. The need to ensure that our resource, manufacturing, and service sectors develop the knowledge base and research and development capacity to guarantee our place in the global economy. Maintaining and improving Canada's position as having the fourth-highest standard of living among leading industrialised nations. Improving our ability to compete, produce goods and services, and sell them to the world. The opening up of new markets. Customers becoming competitors. The ability to develop and adapt to changes in the marketplace. The need to shift to knowledge-intensive industries. Some technological specialities: telecommunications, remote sensing, computer software, but some catching up to do. The National Advisory Board on Science and Technology. The need to cooperate to achieve goals. The University Research Incentive Fund. Pooling resources. The Centres of Excellence Programme. Improving education and training. Measures of educational standards. The relationship between government and post-secondary institutions. Working together; making choices in planning; measuring results against international standards.
- Date of Original
- 23 Apr 1987
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- "MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF TOMORROW"
Chairmen: Nona Macdonald, President,
The Empire Club of Canada, and James K. Warrilow, President, The Canadian Club of Toronto
Introduction by Nona Macdonald:
Media watchers and Donna Scott, publisher of Canada's fashion magazine Flare, know well that this is the week of Toronto's fashion festival. Mr. Premier, you have already noticed my Liberal colour sense today. To our radio listeners, I'm wearing red in honour of our Liberal Premier, and, of course, to co-ordinate with his tie.
After 42 years of Progressive Conservative government in Ontario, David Robert Peterson, at the age of forty-one, became the twentieth Premier, having led the Liberals to the greatest number of popular votes on May 2, 1985. Liberals now hold fifty-one seats in the Ontario Legislature.
Mr. Peterson was first elected as Member for London Centre in 1975 and won the Liberal leadership in 1982. Politics are part of the Peterson tradition. His father Clarence signed the Regina Manifesto in 1933 and served as a City of London alderman as well as Liberal candidate both provincially and federally. His brother Jim was elected to the House of Commons in 1980 as M.P. for Willowdale. His sister-in-law, Heather, works in the Ontario Government and his actress wife, Shelley, is the daughter of Don Matthews, former president of the Progressive Conservative Party, incidentally, Shelley has just signed with CBC television for a major new series about politics and politicians, but the Premier noted, "At least the three young children are normal-so far!"
Public service is also a part of the Peterson tradition. While an undergraduate at the University of Western Ontario, David Peterson worked with Frontier College and later, while studying law at the University of Toronto was director of a volunteer legal aid service for students. After being called to the bar in 1969, he took on the presidency of his family's electronics business, and, thereafter, other leadership roles, including that of the youngest president ever of London's Canadian Club. But that is in the past and today we are here to learn about our future.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Honourable David Peterson, Premier of Ontario.
I'm delighted to have this opportunity to address The Empire Club and The Canadian Club. Both of your organisations provide Canadians with the opportunity to share our perspectives on the most vital issues of the day, and express our views about how we can best meet the challenges of tomorrow.
One of our most important challenges is how we will preserve and build upon Canada's unique set of values.
We have adopted as a country social reforms that rank among the most comprehensive in the world, through such programmes as Medicare and Unemployment Insurance, student assistance and the Canada Pension Plan.
That same spirit of fairness must be summoned to meet new needs, such as specialised health care for an aging population, child-care services for single mothers and working parents, and the housing requirements of the Baby-Boom generation.
Our nation has made a rare constitutional commitment to reducing economic disparities among regions. We must live up to our commitment, and spread prosperity from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and to the Far North.
Ontario's ability to share wealth depends upon our ability to create it.
Our province has been enjoying a period of relative economic buoyancy.
Over the past two years, more than three hundred thousand jobs have been created in Ontario-unprecedented growth for any two-year period in our history. Ontario's unemployment rate has fallen to 6.9 percent.
But the benefits of our comparative economic boom are uneven. Northern Ontario in particular faces a need to diversify and revitalise its economy. The resource industries on which its livelihood is based are in serious difficulty in terms of international competition.
Like their counterparts across Canada, Ontario farmers have yet to fully recover from the 1982 recession.
The provincial unemployment rate for young people has improved over the past couple of years, but it is still unacceptably high at 12.7 percent.
For many, the recovery isn't complete. For some, it never happened.
Our standard of living and our social safety net must not be taken for granted. They are the products of good times. We must develop ways to improve them at all times.
We have two choices: either we can rest on our laurels and hope for the best, banking on our natural strengths to carry us forever. Or, we can meet our challenges-the need to ensure that our resource, manufacturing, and service sectors develop the knowledge base and research and development capacity to guarantee our place in the global economy.
If you want to consider the rate of resource-rich countries that fail to pursue advances in technology, just cast a glance at Argentina. In the 1920s, Argentinians enjoyed the fourthhighest standard of living in the world. Now they are number thirty.
Canadians now enjoy the fourth-highest standard of living among leading industrialised nations. To maintain and improve our position, we must build on our strengths in natural resources by developing our strength in human resources-the knowledge, skills, and ingenuity of our people.
Canadians must improve our ability to compete, to produce goods and services, and sell them to the world.
Suddenly, new markets are opening up, just as developing nations are acquiring the manufacturing capacity to meet their needs.
Suddenly, our customers have become our competitors. Suddenly, we have to develop more advanced products and services, and encourage our existing businesses to invest, expand, and modernise.
The relative economic strength of nations has always been determined by their ability to develop and adapt new technolgies. That capability in turn depends on the existence of a highly skilled workforce equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge and expertise.
This is truer today than it has ever been in the past.
But Canada has made less of a shift to knowledge-intensive industries than any other industrialised economy. In terms of the percentage of our population engaged in research and development, Canada stands between Iceland and Ireland. Some say somewhere in the North Atlantic.
To the extent that we are competing in knowledgeintensive fields, we are not doing it as well as we should. In 1985, Canada suffered a trade deficit in high-tech goods of between six billion dollars and twelve billion dollars, depending on the definitions one uses. In any event, the deficit is substantial, and it's about twice as large as it was in 1978.
Canada is the only industrialised economy with a significant advanced technology deficit.
You can't guarantee a large crop from just a few seeds. Canada devotes 1.3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product to research and development. Our major industrialised competitors spend about twice that much.
Not only are we spending less on R and D than other countries, we are also spending a smaller proportion through the private sector-which can bring new products to the market faster.
Canada is almost the only industrialised country to conduct less than half of its R and D directly through industry. Canadian firms receive little encouragement in this area. Among other developed nations, government support accounts for about thirty-three percent of the R and D undertaken by industry. In Canada, it's about thirteen percent. Canadians take enormous pride in Nobel prizewinner Dr. John Polanyi and his groundbreaking work. In addition to his world-renowned scientific achievements, he has helped us to focus on the importance of science and technology, and Canada's strengths and weaknesses.
But we must remember that his achievements were possible because, years ago, the University of Toronto and the federal Government recognised his project's potential, and gave it support.
Even while we take pride in the tremendous accomplishments of Dr. Polanyi and the four other Nobel prizewinners in our history, let us not forget that in the United States, several universities on their own have produced more Nobel prizewinners than Canada as a whole.
We can be proud of Canadian success in a few technological specialties-such as telecommunications, remote sensing, and computer software.
But we have ground to make up. We can gain that ground only if we bring together the institutions that can train the talented people we need, and the companies that can give them the opportunity to apply new technolgies, and create new products.
That requires forging links between universities and business, so they can reinforce each other.
Co-ordinating and targetting our efforts will strengthen our ability to compete. It will accelerate growth, and create jobs and opportunities in Canada.
It is for these reasons that a year ago yesterday, in the Speech from the Throne, we established a Premier's Council to guide Ontario into the forefront of economic leadership and technological innovation.
Shortly after, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney set up the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology. I congratulate him on the effort. I believe we can work together, and I have already expressed desire to share what we are learning.
Co-operation in all respects should be our national goal. The Premier's Council includes men and women from unions, large corporations, small business, universities and colleges, and the Provincial Cabinet.
The Council's principal task is to plan for the long term-not next month or next year, but the next decade and beyond.
The emphasis is on science and technology, but the whole realm of Government industrial policy is open to review and amendment.
There is a mandate for analysis and study-but also for immediate action where needs are already well-defined. Moreover, the Council members are committed to representing the interests of the entire province-not just their own sector or region. Special interests are left at the door. The task is to make a bigger economic pie, not carve it up into smaller pieces.
The effort is showing results.
The University Research Incentive Fund has been restructured to attract more industry involvement through improved financial support.
The council directs a billion-dollar technology fund that will stimulate joint ventures in areas of strategic importance. Many concrete proposals have come forward from the private sector.
In about two months, the Council will provide Cabinet with its recommendations as to where to establish Centres of Excellence. These centres will stimulate the production of advanced research, train and develop world-class researchers, and encourage the transfer and diffusion of technology.
A panel of experts of international standing is currently reviewing the 28 applications we've received-each of which pools the resources and expertise of Ontario Corporations and post-secondary institutions. The process has drawn the participation of universities, community colleges, independent research institutes, hospitals, and more than one hundred and eighty corporations.
In and of itself, the Centres of Excellence Programme will increase research funding in Ontario universities by ten percent.
Before the end of this year, the Council will release the results of a thorough and wide-ranging research study focussed on the international competitive position of fifteen key Ontario industry sectors, the capabilities of our educational, science and technology infrastructure, and a sweeping review of Government policy here and abroad.
The work of the Council has already established strong new links between post-secondary institutions and industry. Private-sector research groups that formerly weren't even aware of each other's existence are now talking and exchanging information.
The Council's extensive research effort has broadened Government's perspective, and stimulated a new look at priorities.
We're learning how we can build on our strength-how we can improve technology diffusion, bring products to the market much more rapidly, and encourage entrepreneurship.
Technology is vital-but, to take advantage of it, we must have the skilled, entrepreneurial people to use it, transfer it, and ensure that it benefits all Canadians.
We're learning just how important it is to educate and train a creative, knowledgeable, and enterprising generation of Canadians. That is our greatest strength, and the most important one to build on.
Education has been our most valuable tool in crafting a society as humane and civilised as any the world has known. In Ontario, education has provided a ladder to new heights of economic opportunity and cultural fulfillment.
Our education and training systems must continue to serve these purposes, and meet the highest possible standards of accessibility.
But our schools are not just instruments of social policy-they are also instruments of economic growth.
Because without a literate, skilled, adaptable, and motivated workforce, capital and technology cannot be productive. Technological strength results from a chain of efforts. The chain begins with elementary and secondary education, runs through the universities, which combine education and research, and then through industries that employ trained people and develop new products.
These institutions are interdependent: none can do its job well unless the others function effectively.
We need to strengthen the entire chain. And we need to start at the primary schools. Excellence begins early.
That is why we must be concerned about recent studies that call into question the effectiveness of our educational system in preparing young people, particularly in the key subjects of science and math.
The recently released Second International Mathematics Study, one of the few authoritative worldwide comparisons of student achievement, found that Ontario students placed no better than average in six vital areas of mathematics skill-statistics, analysis, calculus, trigonometry, geometry, and algebra.
If they aspire to world-class status, average is just not good enough. Hong Kong and Japan know that-and they consistently placed first and second respectively.
The study showed that our best students can master the vital subject areas as well as anyone. But the large group in the middle is falling behind, and others are falling out of the race altogether.
A rough measure of functional literacy is completion of Grade nine. By that standard, more than twenty-two percent of Canadians, and twenty percent of Ontarians, are illiterate. Those rates are higher than those of most industrialised nations.
The most up-to-date data show that about one third of Ontario students drop out of high school without earning a Grade 12 diploma. That rate is about four times larger than Japan's.
Dealing with these problems must be one of the major thrusts of Government policy over the next few years. The Speech from the Throne next week will indicate how we intend to begin that task.
Our goal is to ensure that Ontario's young people master the traditional literacy and the new literacy-computer skills, advanced mathematics, and science. We must teach not only the Three R's but also the Three I's-innovation, initiative, and ingenuity.
Canada spends a larger percentage of its Gross National Product on education than most industrialised countries. But it is not purely a question of money. We need to target the funds we invest to obtain the results we need.
Obviously, schools must have sufficient resources to do their jobs. Our province's commitment to education and training is reflected in massive funding increases we have provided to begin to make up for years of chronic underfunding.
These increases far surpass inflation and translate into real improvements.
But this new commitment to education cannot come without strings.
If we are to continue to provide the large proportion of taxpayers' dollars that the education system requires, we must ensure that it meets the real long-term needs of the taxpayers and their children.
If we are to treat education as a vital investment, we must be able to look at our returns.
This is particularly true of the post-secondary system, where we must place priority on the areas of specialty that will help young people insure their place in a highly competitive world environment.
Japanese economic strength can no doubt be partly explained by the fact that, relative to population, they have four times as many engineers as Ontario, while we have forty times as many lawyers as Japan.
We have to set priorities that will direct our post-secondary funding to where it will do the most good for the young people who invest their time, and for the taxpayers who invest their money.
The Post-Secondary Excellence Fund, introduced last year, targetted operating support for universities and colleges to priority areas.
The approach of tying post-secondary support to specific goals will be a permanent feature of our system for funding universities. Funds that were formerly provided without any definition of performance expectations will be targetted.
We will provide post-secondary institutions with more money than they have ever received before, but we will do it in a way that ties funding to results for the people of Ontario.
We appreciate the importance of autonomy. But we also recognise the need for accountability. The two principles can live side by side.
The relationship between Government and post-secondary institutions must help us to meet the demands imposed by changing economic and social conditions.
First, Government and the post-secondary institutions have a new responsibility to work together. A great deal of public wellbeing is at stake; a great deal of public money is invested.
The people of Ontario have an active interest in ensuring that their investment helps the higher educational system become in increasingly effective tool of social and economic betterment. Society cannot restrict its role to only that of a banker.
The people of this province, through their Government, are now at the table in planning the development of our higher educational system.
Second, planning entails making choices. No one institution can excel at everything. The people who make decisions in universities and colleges are facing a growing responsibility to choose among competing research and teaching activities, and then to back their choices with resource support.
In some cases, that will entail looking beyond the public and academic sectors for new sources of support for priority activities.
With initiatives such as the Centres of Excellence Programme, we are offering strong encouragement for this kind of strategic decision-making.
Third, in post-secondary education we will have to measure our results against the standards of an internationally competitive environment.
But, we in Ontario must determine for ourselves the areas in which we seek to excel.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by James K. Warrilow, President of The Canadian Club of Toronto.