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- 16 June, 2022 A Keynote Address by Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland
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June 16th, 2022
The Empire Club of Canada Presents
A Keynote Address by Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
Chairman: Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada; Vice-President, External Affairs & Professional Learning, Humber College
Head Table Guests
Christine Morris, Senior Executive Vice-President, Transformation, Enablement and Customer Experience, TD Bank Group
John Campion, Partner, Gardiner Roberts, LLP
Anthony Ostler, President & CEO, Canadian Bankers Association
Dr. Ann Marie Vaughan, President & CEO, Loyalist College
Sal Rabbani, 1st Vice-President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada; Managing Partner, BDC Advisory Services, Business Development Bank of Canada
Antoinette Tummillo, Past President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada; President, Antoinette Tummillo and Associates Inc.
Kent Emerson, Past President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada; Principal, Valorem Insights
Distinguished Guest Speakers
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Canada's Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Finance
Jéan-François Perrault, Senior Vice-President & Chief Economist, ScotiaBank
Jean-Louis Servranckx, President & CEO, Aecon Group
It is a great honour for me to be here at the Empire Club of Canada today, which is arguably the most famous and historically relevant speaker’s podium to have ever existed in Canada. It has offered its podium to such international luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Audhrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, and closer to home, from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau. Literally generations of our great nation's leaders, alongside with those of the world's top international diplomats, heads of state, and business and thought leaders.
It is a real honour and distinct privilege to be invited to speak to the Empire Club of Canada, which has been welcoming international diplomats, leaders in business, and in science, and in politics. When they stand at that podium, they speak not only to the entire country, but they can speak to the entire world.
Welcome Address by Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Good afternoon. Welcome to the Empire Club of Canada. I'd like to extend a warm welcome to everyone, whether you're joining us here today in downtown Toronto at the Arcadian Court, whether you're tuning in online as a member of our virtual audience, or if you'll be watching this later, or listening in on-demand or on the podcast. My name is Kelly Jackson. I am the President of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club of Canada and Vice-President, External Affairs and Professional Learning at Humber College.
To formally begin this afternoon, I want to acknowledge that we are gathered here today on the Traditional and Treaty Lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the homelands of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wyandot Peoples. In acknowledging Traditional Territories, I do so from a place of understanding the privilege that my ancestors and I have had in this country, since they first arrived here in the 1830’s. As farmers in Southwestern Ontario, I imagine they felt a deep connection to the land, and yet likely did not recognize how that connection was built on the displacement of others. Delivering a land acknowledgement, for me, it's always an important opportunity to reflect on our human connection, and responsibility to care for the land; and to recognize that to do so, we must always respect each other, and acknowledge our histories. We encourage everyone tuning in today to learn more about the Traditional Territory on which you work and live.
When we wrap up our season later this month with our annual Canada Day Reflection, we will have hosted 38 events, connecting thousands of people across Canada, and internationally, to critical conversations of our time. This has been no small feat, considering the uncertainty caused by COVID-19—let's just say, it hasn't been easy to be in the event business. Today, event number 37 is special for a number of reasons. It's our final in-person event of the 118th season. It's the first time in the Club's history that we will welcome Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, a true glass ceiling shatter and role model. It's also my last in-person event as President of the Board of Directors and, given that, I would seek your indulgence just to extend a few personal thank yous. First, to Kent Emerson, who recruited me to join the board, to Antoinette Tummillo, my predecessor and Sal Rabbani, our President-elect. Each of you has been an amazing champion for the Club, and I am grateful for your support on my journey to becoming president, and throughout this past year. Thank you to my fellow directors, many who are here today, and to those on our executive committee for your engagement and commitment. And thank you to our interim Executive Director Jody Larose for your collaboration. We've managed to move the Club forward on so many great strategic fronts. I also want to take a moment to thank my Humber colleagues for their support. In particular, I want to express my gratitude to Jenna Donaldson, Bethany Sharp and Andrew Leopold; I'm thrilled that you three are here today. I like to also say a quick thank you to Lori Diduch and Rani Dhaliwal, who both encouraged me, without hesitation, to take on this role; and to Chris Whitaker, for always believing in my capacity to lead. And not to make this like an Oscar speech, but just want to say thank you to my husband as well, David Alkerton, for his unwavering support.
Tuning in now for today's program, I want to start by recognizing that we have a number of students who have joined us here. Bell Canada has generously supported and sponsored a student table, and we have a number of students who are enjoying the opportunity of joining us in person. We also have a few volunteers here from the Toronto Metropolitan University, and from Humber College, you may have seen them on your way in helping out. Thank you very much—you always gotta give it up for the students.
I'd also like to recognize Revv52, who performed the rendition of “O Canada” that we heard earlier. Revv52 is a Calgary-based performance ensemble, and we're honoured that they agreed to share their talents with us today. We look forward to showcasing more Canadian artists at future events. So, if you know of a singer, or a musician, or a group who would like to share their rendition of “O Canada” with us, please get in touch.
The Empire Club of Canada, we are a non-profit organization. So, I now want to take a moment to recognize our sponsors, because they generously support the Club, and they make these events possible, and in particular, they make them complimentary, for our online viewers to attend. Thank you to our lead event sponsors, Aecon and Scotiabank. Thank you to our VIP reception sponsor, TD. And thank you to our supporting sponsors, Boston Consulting Group, Canadian Beverage Association, Canadian Real Estate Association, Fasken, Gardiner Roberts, goeasy, and Torys LLP. And thank you as well to our season sponsors, Bruce Power, the Canadian Bankers Association, LiUNA, and Waste Connections of Canada.
So, now, just a quick housekeeping note for those of you who are joining us online, if at any time you require technical assistance while watching the program, you can start a conversation with our team, using the chat button that you will see on the right-hand side of your screen. It's now my pleasure to invite Jéan-François Perrault, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist at ScotiaBank, to introduce our guest speaker.
Opening Remarks by Jéan-François Perrault, Senior Vice-President & Chief Economist, ScotiaBank
Well, I’m not going to thank my wife. Good afternoon everybody. She’d better not be watching online. Well, thanks everybody, for coming in. And of course, it's a great privilege for me to be here representing Scotiabank, and to welcome you all to the Empire Club's keynote address by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. As I think you know, this is a very interesting time. And for folks like me, I'm an economist whose job it is to try to understand what's going on in the world, forecast things, try to make sense of what we know, try to understand what we don't know—and trust me, there's a lot more of that than you'd like to think. Understanding all that requires a good understanding of what's happening with economic policies. At the end of the day, economic policy drives so much of what we experience. And of course, being Minister of Finance, being Deputy Prime Minister, puts Ms. Freeland at the centre of all these things. And so, we're incredibly privileged to have her here today to have that conversation.
Now, I've had the chance to have conversations with her over the years—I guess it’s been over the years—on a range of issues. And I think the one that kind of sticks out to me the most, and I think, or is relevant in the context of what we're dealing with today, is some chats that we had about childcare. So, we wrote a paper on childcare in late 2020, where basically we were arguing that childcare shouldn't be thought of as social policy, but should be thought of as economic policy. And that, effectively, the more governments took this seriously, the better our economy would be, and of course, the better the situation of women would be. Needless to say, the Deputy Prime Minister agreed, at least in principle, with the ideas; now she’s implemented some very ambitious policies at the national front, working with provinces to make that happen. It's an incredible achievement. We’ll see how impactful that is—hopefully it's as impactful as we think it's going to be—but I did want to congratulate you on that very important achievement, because I think it's a very, very important step forward for Canada.
Now, it's a dizzying time. I don't know if anybody looked at markets today, or yesterday, or two days ago or a week ago. We're in this extremely bizarre state of the world. So, it's dizzying, because the economy here, in fact, is pretty good, right? Unemployment is at the country's lowest level in God knows how many decades, job vacancies are at record levels, in fact, Canada this year might be the most rapidly growing advanced country in the world—let's hope that's the case. But despite that, we're worried, right? There are clouds on the horizon, there's no question about it. It's not a feel-good period of time. No matter what the underground situation is, the reality is, we're troubled. Inflation is rolling purchasing power in very significant ways, depending on where you are in the country, depending on where you are in the job market. Interest rates are going up, that's adding an additional crunch to household budgets. And of course, global instability is all around us. And that's reflected in very volatile markets. And that's likely to be the case for hopefully not too much longer, but probably fair amount of time.
So, navigating these challenges is extremely difficult for Canadians, but it's as difficult for Canadians as it is for policymakers. So, as I see it, there's an opportunity in times like this, for us to come together, think about what's important, thinking about how do we take the country forward, thinking about how creative we can be, in conversations like this. Understanding the positions of the government on these issues, I think, is really helpful from that perspective, because there's a role for everybody in these conversations, right? There's roles for folks like me who spend their time pontificating about things, there's a role for government, there’s a role for business, there’s a role for individuals to come up with policies and help us move forward collectively, and in as effective and inclusive a way as possible. It's easy to lose track of that, given all the stuff that's going on, but at the end of the day, that's what we all want.
Now, being a politician is not an easy job. I'm not a politician, I never will be. And I don't envy people who are in politics, because you see the stuff that's going on, but it's incredibly important. It's incredibly important. And of course, everybody in this room is an armchair politician; everybody's an armchair Prime Minister, Minister of Finance. We’ve all got a perspective on what the government is doing. Oftentimes, we don't agree, other times we agree, but there isn't a person here—in fact, the fact that you're here is proof that we're all kind of armchair politicians. So, and it's certainly my, obviously, it’s certainly my case, given what I do. And the Deputy Prime Minister and I talk frequently about things, and we don't always agree, and I don't always agree with her—and of course, it matters more if I agree with her and she agrees with me, because she's, she's the politician. But what's clear to me, what's absolutely clear to me, is that she is uniquely driven to improve the lives of Canadians. It's not a question of politics, you know, spend any amount of time with her and you'll that'll come out extremely clearly. She consults, she listens, she reflects on things, and she welcomes the views, insights of others. I haven't been paid to say this; this is what I've experienced. And those are essential qualities in everyday life, but they're even more important if you're a policymaker or a politician, especially when we're setting policy in the environment that's as complicated as the one we're in now. So today, we're fortunate to have the Deputy Prime Minister here, to share her views on issues that are of immense importance to Canadians. I can't wait to see what she's going to have to say. So, I'm getting off the stage and welcome Miss Freeland to the stage.
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Canada's Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Finance
Okay, well, I'm gonna start by following Kelly's example, and not following Jéan-François’ example—because I've been married for a long time now, and I would like to continue to be married—so I'm going to say thank you to my amazing husband, who's also actually an economist, by the way. And I'm going to also, Jéan-François, I'm going to thank your wife, because I think you're going to be in trouble otherwise. And I do also want to thank you, Jéan-François, for your very nice comments. And I want to confirm that that Scotiabank research you guys did on childcare, you did it just as I was becoming Minister of Finance, and it did have a real impact on me. So, thank you for doing it. I think it's gonna have an impact on a lot of Canadians. So, thanks a lot.
So, it is so wonderful to be here in person. And that's where I want to start today, with how great and how novel it is for us to be here in person and en masse. Because that novelty is a reminder of just how hard the past two years have been. Let's remember, a little more than two years ago, we were in the throes of the deepest recession since the Great Depression. Our economy had contracted by 17%, 3 million Canadians had lost their jobs, and our government had just deployed wartime spending to prevent a complete collapse. In the aftermath of 2008, our economy remained sluggish for years. The depression scarred an entire generation. In June of 2020, looking ahead, with history as your guide, you would have been forgiven for expecting the worst, yet again. Instead, we've recovered 117% of the jobs that were lost during the darkest months of the pandemic, and that compares to just 96% in the United States. Instead of persistent unemployment, the unemployment rate is today just 5.1%, a record low. Young people, Indigenous peoples, women, and new Canadians have particularly benefited from the strong job market. As Jéan-François said—not me, him—this is the strongest recovery in the G7, it's the strongest jobs recovery in the G7, and Canada's real GDP is 1.8% above where it was in those awful first weeks. But, if the data is so rosy, if the rebound is so strong—and it really is—why don't we feel very good? Why are Canadians so worried? I think everyone here knows the answer. Inflation. Jobs are plentiful, business is booming, but it's also harder for a lot of Canadians to pay their bills at the end of the month. Now, I rode my bike here today, and my aforementioned husband and I are raising three kids, in downtown Toronto, without owning a car. Now, we can do that, because there's a subway station barely 200 metres from our front door, and our kids can walk to school. But the house I grew up in Peace River Alberta is about 10 miles from town; and I got my driver's licence the day I turned 16, as did every other kid in town. I understand keenly that millions of Canadians drive a long way to the store, and that today, they will wince when they fill up their tank, and when they buy their groceries. And I know that many of them are asking what their government is going to do about it. So, that's what I want to talk about here today.
The pandemic has been, we hope, a once in a generation crisis. But like any major crisis, this one has aftershocks, and inflation is chief among them. Inflation is not a made in Canada challenge, and it's actually less severe here than among our peers. Inflation in Canada was 6.8% in April; it was 9% in the United Kingdom, 7.4% in Germany, and 9.2% across the OECD. In the US, it was 8.6% in May. So, this is clearly a global phenomenon, one driven by factors that no single country is responsible for, and that no single country can insulate itself from. We know the causes. First, the pandemic, the shift in demand from services to goods it triggered, and the resulting supply chain snarls, which I heard about very personally, just this morning, from Marty Wiener at his family-run hardware store in my neighbourhood. China's COVID-Zero policies have made the world's supply chain problems worse. And then, Vladimir Putin illegally invaded Ukraine, forcing up the price of food and fuel. Here in Canada and around the world, that means higher prices at the checkout counter, and higher prices at the gas pump. Now, Canada doesn't have a say in Beijing's public health measures, and we clearly aren't consulted when the Kremlin makes its war plans—I sure am not. No single country can solve these global problems, but what we can do is help Canadians weather this newest storm, just as we've done over these past two years, with a plan. We will take real, and tangible steps to get inflation under control, and to make life more affordable for Canadians.
So, here, in five parts, is how we're going to do it. First, let me start by recognizing the central role of the Bank of Canada. For more than three decades, it's been the bank's responsibility to tackle inflation here in Canada. I reaffirmed this central mandate in December. The bank has begun the work of bringing inflation back within target, and it has the tools and the expertise it needs, to keep inflation from becoming entrenched. In reaffirming our AAA credit rating, after I tabled the April budget, S&P specifically cited the strength of Canada's government institutions as one reason for our exceptional rating. At this time of global, economic, and political volatility, undermining Canada's fundamental institutions—very much including the Bank of Canada—is highly irresponsible, not to mention economically illiterate. But, while fighting inflation is the central bank's job, good government policy can make it easier, by tackling the supply constraints which are driving the rise in prices.
Ce qui m’amène à mon deuxième point. Une pénurie de main d’œuvre de travailleurs qui ont des bonnes compétences entravent les économies du monde. Le Canada n’y échappe pas. Contrôler cette pénurie était parmi les objectifs fondamentaux de notre budget du mois d’avril. Notre plan pour y arriver s’inscrit dans une série de mesures que Janet Yellin, la Secrétaire au Trésor aux États-Unis, que j’aurai le plaisir d’accueillir au Canada lundi, désigné comme étant l’économie moderne de l’offre. L’économie moderne de l’offre reprend l’idée fondamentale de l’économie de l’offre, à savoir que l’augmentation de l’offre est essentielle à la croissance, mais préconise une approche progressiste, axée sur les personnes. Elle consiste à investir dans le cœur d’une économie prospère des gens les Canadiens. Ainsi nous investissons dans l’immigration, les compétences, la garderie, et les logements. Pour ce qui est de l’immigration, j’ai des bonnes nouvelles. À une époque où les grandes économies du monde ont désespérément besoin de travailleurs qualifiés, la population du Canada est celle qui a enregistré la plus grande croissance, parmi les pays du G7 depuis 2016. En 2021, nous avons accueilli 405,000 nouveaux résidents permanents, une année recorde dans notre histoire pour l’accueil des gens, et nous visons à attirer 451,000 par année d’ici 2024. Aux cours de six premiers mois de 2022, nous avons déjà accueilli 204,000 nouveaux résidents permanents (applaudissement). Et vraiment au moment où l’hostilité à l’égard de l’immigration est en hausse dans la plupart des pays industrialisés, l’attachement tout particulier du Canada au multiculturalisme nous donne un avantage concurrentiel et stimule la croissance économique.
In the budget, we also set out to invest in the workers who are already here. That means ensuring our skilled trades workers can afford to travel to the parts of Canada where their services are desperately needed. It means investing in the skills and the training that workers will need for the good paying jobs of tomorrow, and supporting union-based apprenticeship training to bring more people into the trades. And it means programs like the Canada Workers Benefit, providing more than $3.6 billion in estimated support this year, which will make life more affordable for our lowest paid, and often most essential, workers.
And as we've heard on childcare, the economic argument is clear. It is economic malpractice to force women to choose between their family and a career. Early learning and childcare is feminist economic policy in action. And so, despite legitimate concerns about whether we could actually do it, I am so glad to be able to say to you today that we have already signed agreements on early learning and childcare with every single province and territory. And we're building an affordable, universal system of early learning and childcare at precisely the right moment, a time when our economy urgently needs every mother who wants to go to work, provided that she has the comfort of knowing that her children are being well cared for, and well taught. And our plan makes work, and life, more affordable for middle class Canadian families. It means a reduction in fees of 50% by the end of this year. In three years, childcare will cost an average of just $10 a day, right across the country.
As Canada's workforce grows, we will also need more homes. But today, we're just not building them fast enough—the subject, by the way, of also excellent bank research, thank you—that's why perhaps the most significant commitment we made in the budget was to double the number of new homes we will build over the next 10 years. The federal government, provinces and territories, cities and towns, the private sector, and not-for-profits, all working together to build the homes a growing country urgently needs. Taken together, immigration, housing skills, and childcare are quite clearly social policies, but they’re economic policies too. This set of measures will help drive our continued economic growth in a way that fights inflation, by increasing the supply of the workers, and the homes that we just don't have enough of.
The third part of our plan to combat inflation is fiscal restraint. We spent an extraordinary amount of money to make it through the pandemic. Eight out of every ten dollars was invested to rescue Canadians, and the Canadian economy. More than $300 billion was deployed, rightly, by the Federal Government. But there is no such thing as a blank check. Our ability to spend is not infinite. That was true when interest rates were at historic lows in the spring of 2020, and it is most certainly true today. Canada has the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G7. And as the Bank of Canada withdraws monetary stimulus, our government is likewise withdrawing fiscal stimulus. In fact, Canada's rate of fiscal consolidation is tied with the United States for the fastest in the G7. Now, I'm determined to see our debt to GDP ratio continue to decline, and our deficits continue to be reduced. Our pandemic debt must, and will, be paid down. In tabling the budget in April, I reaffirmed this as our fiscal anchor, and I committed to a review and a reduction of government spending, because that is the responsible thing to do. Now, I know that my fiscal prudence surprised many in this room—yes, I do read your predictions. This fiscal restraint was very intentional. At a time when inflation was elevated, we knew we needed to be careful not to increase aggregate demand. As interest rates were set to rise, we understood the importance of maintaining Canada's AAA rating. But you know, even as I say that I can hear the gentle mockery—or maybe not-so-gentle mockery—of the people I went to public school with. They would tell me that you can't fill up a truck with a AAA rating. And they would be right.
Which brings me to my fourth point, making sure there are enough good middle-class jobs for Canadians. For most Canadian families, paying the bills starts with having a good job. C’est pourquoi, pendant la pandémie, nous nous sommes concentrés sur l’emploi et sur les moyens de maintenir les entreprises à flotte et d’aider les travailleurs à rester sur le marché de travail. J’ai mentionné plus tôt que notre taux de chômage est aujourd’hui le plus bas qu’il n’a jamais été, et que nous avons récupéré 117% des emplois que nous avons perdu au printemps de 2020. Notre taux de participation aux marchés de travail a attient après des nouveaux records. Au pire de la pandémie, il était raisonnable de craindre que nous jeunes deviennent une génération perdue et qu’il n’a pas eu la chance de s’épanouir puis qu’ils ont grandi dans une économie en déclin. Aujourd’hui, à l’inverse, ils font leur entrée sur la marché du travail le plus dynamique que nous connaît depuis des décennies. Au lieu d’avoir un marché de travail marqué de façon permanente par le COVID-19, nous avons affiché le meilleur rendement en matière d’emploi jamais enregistré par Statistique Canada. Ce résultat n’était pas acquis. Nous y sommes arrivés en adaptant les mesures qui s’imposaient et en nous concentrant sans cesse sur les emplois.
This means, as we face elevated global inflation, that more Canadians have a better job than ever before, which brings me to my fifth point, helping Canadians directly with the challenge of affordability. Now, some people are calling for new government spending, whether through tax expenditures or direct payments. And on that point, I have some good news. Because of investments we have already made in the last two federal budgets, a new set of measures is coming into force right now, to help the Canadians who need it most. This is $8.9 billion in new support for Canadians this year, and this is our affordability plan. This affordability plan includes one, enhancing the Canada Workers Benefit, at a cost of $1.7 billion in new support for workers this year, to put up to an additional $2,400 into the pockets of low-income families, starting this year. Two, a 10% increase to old age security for seniors over 75, which will provide up to $766 more this year for more than 3 million seniors. Three, a $500 payment this year to nearly 1 million Canadian renters who are struggling with the cost of housing. Four, as we've discussed, cutting childcare fees by an average of 50% by the end of this year, with savings for a family, here in Toronto, of up to $6,000 per child. A lot of people have told me childcare is like a second mortgage, and I'm so pleased we're going to be able to relieve that burden. Five, dental care for Canadians earning less than $90,000, starting with hundreds of thousands of children under 12 this year. And six, the indexation to inflation of benefits, including the Canada Child Benefit, the GST Credit, the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
The federal minimum wage, which we increased to $15 an hour, is also indexed to inflation. So, for a family here in Ontario, with an income of $45,000 a year, and a child in daycare, this affordability plan could mean about an additional $7,600 above existing benefits, more than 16% of their annual income this fiscal year. A senior with a disability, say, in Québec, could benefit from over $2500 more this year, than she received last year. A recent graduate living in Alberta, could receive about an additional $1,600 in new and enhanced benefits this year, compared to last year. So, the measures in this affordability plan represent entirely new support for some of the Canadians who need it the most right now; $8.9 billion that they did not receive last year. But I'm at the Empire Club, I would imagine there are some fiscal hawks in the audience. And I want to say to you, fear not. This is new money for the Canadians receiving it this year, but these are all measures we built into our last two budgets. These are measures that have already been accounted for in Canada's AAA-rated fiscal framework, and in the economic projections that many people in this room have been making. Now, given the uncertainty in the global economy, would it be wise for me to stand here, and rule out the need for further support in the future? Of course, it would not be. But many of the most vulnerable Canadians are already receiving more financial support today than they did last year, and they will continue to receive new support in the weeks and months to come. For the Canadians who need it most, this will make their lives more affordable at exactly the right time.
The five points I've spoken about today, respect for the central role of the Bank of Canada, investing in people, fiscal restraint, good jobs, and a new affordability plan, will help sustain the robust recovery we've made from the COVID recession. Our plan will help tackle inflation and make life more affordable for Canadians. I'm confident that our plan is the right one, but I do not underestimate the economic difficulties, and frankly, the uncertainty, of the months to come. We've been through two years of remarkable turbulence. Our challenge now is to land the plane; and a soft landing is not guaranteed. But fortunately for all of us, there is absolutely no country in the entire world better placed than Canada to achieve that soft landing. That is certainly the view of the IMF, the OECD and Moody's, which have all recently predicted that Canada will have the strongest real GDP growth in the G7 this year, and also next year. They are so right to be bullish on Canada. Despite unprecedented emergency spending, our finances are, and will remain, sustainable. We have a diverse, growing and supremely talented population. We're a country where skilled workers want to move and we are a people who welcome them.
Alors que le monde connait le virage l’économique le plus profonde depuis la révolution industrielle, nous investissons également de toute urgence dans le changement écologique. Agir pour le climat n’est plus un débat politique. C’est une nécessité économique! L’économie mondiale es en train de changer et nos clients du monde entier ont clairement fait comprendre que ce n’était pas viable de polluer pour créer de bons emplois et de la croissance à long terme. Une prime nationale sur la pollution est l’initiative commerciale la plus efficace pour l’action climatique et celui qu’on a mis en place met plus d’argent dans les poches de 8 familles sur 10 ici en Ontario. De la construction de batteries pour les voitures zéro émission, aux investissements dans le captage, l’utilisation et le stockage de carbon, nous nous assurons que le Canada est le chef de file d’une économie mondiale en évolution et que les Canadiens en profitent.
The April budget also included measures ranging from a new Canada Growth Fund that will help attract the private investment we need to build a cleaner and more prosperous Canada, to an innovation and investment agency that will help our traditional industries thrive in a changing and competitive global economy, and our small businesses to continue to grow, and create good middle-class jobs. We're working out the details of these plans now, because we are very serious about tackling the productivity challenge that remains Canada's economic Achilles heel. Now, as I look around this room, I can see enthusiasm for the concept, lots of nodding heads, but also a little scepticism about whether we can actually get it done. And that's fair enough. Canadians have been hand-wringing about productivity for at least three decades. And yeah, you laugh but it's true, right? How many conversations have all of us been in about that? And we just can't seem to make a difference. But we will this time. And to build your confidence, let me give you three examples of big things, big changes that our government has accomplished. We have a carbon price that has been upheld by the Supreme Court, and is lauded as a model by the IMF. We have a technology sector here in Toronto, that is outpacing Silicon Valley. Yeah, we take it for granted now, but it wasn't so long ago that people thought that would be impossible, and we showed them we could do it. And of course, we have a national childcare program, something that had been long promised; 50 years of promises, but never delivered. Major change is possible. We've shown that during these past seven years, and on productivity, do not doubt our commitment.
So, I began by describing the hostile global forces making life harder here in Canada. I'm going to conclude by talking about how a dramatically changing world offers truly historic opportunities for us here in Canada, tomorrow, and in the years ahead. The hopeful, and entirely open, post-Cold War world order that we tried to build, starting on November 9th 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell, that ended on February 24th, the day of Vladimir Putin’s barbaric and illegal invasion of Ukraine. It's over. In its place, we are entering a new era, a period of friend shoring, a period in which our allies know that it's worth spending a little more to build their supply chains with other democracies. And the world's democracies have grown more united in the face of Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine. And as they have grown more united, Canada absolutely stands ready to provide our allies with the resources they need. I think it really is our job, and I think we need to do it, and we will. Europe is determined to wean itself from Russian energy, a huge shift, but it's people must still heat their homes. These past months have reminded us all, that security includes energy security, and Canada is working hard to help provide it for our democratic partners. We have a wealth of the critical minerals and metals that our allies need, for everything from phones to electric cars. And our hard-working farmers grow the food that can help feed a world threatened by Putin’s blockades. We are the only G7 country with trade deals with each one of our G7 allies, and that is a partnership more important in the days to come than it ever has been.
The future of the global economy does not belong to those who believe that the size of their armies, or the harshness of their sensors, or even the extent of their natural gas reserves, will allow them to act with impunity. The good jobs and prosperity of today and tomorrow, belong to the workers who are the heart of the world's democracies. And nowhere will that be more true than here in Canada. So, we know that the road ahead will be bumpy, and that we cannot see around every corner. If the past two years have taught us anything, it's that we would be naive to expect otherwise. But for all the challenges we face today, Canada remains the best place in the world, to live, to work, to raise a family. Ensuring that remains true for our children will continue to be our focus, my focus, in the weeks, months and years ahead. A Canada where life is more affordable, where everyone can earn a decent living for an honest day's work, and a Canada where nobody gets left behind. Thank you very much. Merci.
Thank you very much, Deputy Prime Minister. I'd now like to invite Jean-Louis Servranckx, President and CEO of Aecon Group, to deliver some appreciation remarks.
Jean-Louis Servranckx, President & CEO, Aecon Group
A brilliant speech—this is what I've just told you, when you come back to the table. Time is of the essence, so I will not, for my closing remark, participate in the debate about the role of my wife, I think every everything has been already said. Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you, Kelly for the introduction. As a leading infrastructure company in Canada, Aecon is proud to be a lead sponsor of this event. I would like to sincerely thank you, Deputy Prime Minister, for taking the time to deliver your keynote this afternoon. Perfectly pronounced in French, my mother language, and in English; it's impressive. I think I speak for everyone when I say that the perspectives you share on how to move the Canadian economy forward, and under unprecedented circumstances, are of great value to all stakeholders, and those of us in attendance today. As I was listening to your remarks, I was thinking of how Aecon’s purpose, our mission, is aligned with your government's plan from the last year. Number one, we employ over 10,000 hardworking people across the nation in the skilled trades, in a broad array of sophisticated disciplines. Number two, we partner everywhere, with Indigenous peoples, to build infrastructure together. Number three, Aecon is delivering some of the most transformative and sustainable infrastructure projects nationwide, from the Gordie Howe International Bridge between Canada United States, the GO expansion project here in Toronto—the largest transit project in Ontario's History—to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, the Kicking Horse Canyon project in Alberta. We are also playing a key role refurbishing the Bruce Power and Darlington nuclear generating stations and are preferred contractors with key utilities providers to deliver fibreoptic networks, and natural gas connection, for growing sustainable community. The infrastructure we build not only creates jobs and stimulate the economy while partnering with Indigenous people, but it also gets people to and from their jobs easier, keeps the lights on, and keeps us all connected.
In conclusion, thank you again, Deputy Prime Minister, I'm sure we could all discuss with the economy from your own personal and business perspective for hours in the five languages you perfectly practice. As I wrap up today's event, I will conclude by saying that Aecon, and our peers here today, remain ready partners for the government to continue stimulating the economy. As you referenced in your remarks, current economic challenges are not just contained in Canada, but every industrialized economy is facing similar challenges. The problem, as you say, are not the issues that are just in front of us now, but the way, together, we will tackle them. The federal government’s near-term economic plan, which you spoke about today, is critical. Working on immigration skills, help for the lower income people in front of inflation, what you call your new affordability plan a few minutes ago, is of the essence. All this goes perfectly in the right direction, and is excellent, so that Canada can emerge with the best momentum coming out of this pandemic. Thank you. I would like to, again, thank everyone for being in attendance today, to the Empire Club for hosting a first-rate event, and our new Deputy Prime Minister for sharing with so much enthusiasm, your valued insight. I will now hand it over back to Kelly.
Concluding Remarks by Kelly Jackson
Thank you Jean-Louis. Thank you to Aecon Group, and to all of our sponsors for your support. Thank you to the Deputy Prime Minister for being here today, and everybody who has joined us in person, and those online. As a club of record, all Empire Club of Canada events are available to watch and live and on-demand on our website. This recording from today's event will be available shortly, and everybody who's registered for the event will receive a link to it. Please feel free to share that link and keep the conversation going.
Our next, and final, event of the 118th season, will be a virtual event in celebration of Canada Day, on June 29th. I will be joined by the Honourable Perrin Beatty, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, along with Tareq Hadhad, Founder and CEO of Peace by Chocolate. We're going to be exploring whether the traditional business models that have forged some of this country's most iconic brands, still offer a blueprint for modern entrepreneurial success. More details and registration are available at empireclubofcanada.com. Thank you again for being here today, thank you for tuning in. Please, if you're here, feel free to stay and network, and we appreciate your patience as we ran a bit longer than expected. Have a great day. Stay safe and take care.