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Address to the Halifax Harbourside Rotary Club - BUILDING A DYNAMIC ATLANTIC ECONOMY

Friday, June 16, 2021
Scott Brison
Source :  Scott Brison

Speaking Notes

 

for the

 

Hon. Scott. Brison, P.C., M.P.

 

 

Halifax Harbourside Rotary Club

Halifax Citadel Hotel

Friday, June 16, 2021

 

 

 

BUILDING A DYNAMIC ATLANTIC ECONOMY

 


 

It’s great to be in Halifax, even if it is just for a day.

It’s an immense challenge to run a national campaign in a country as huge, vibrant and diverse as Canada. That’s why it’s so good to get back home, no matter how short the visit.

It gives me a chance to pause for a second and remind myself where I come from. And what I stand for.

My family are hard working, entrepreneurial stock, just like countless other Atlantic Canadian families.

In his recent book “The Codfathers” Gordon Pitts marvels at the disproportionately high number of business leaders from this area.

Frankly, down here we’re used to it.

Growing up in Atlantic Canada seems to instill people with the kinds of qualities that ensure entrepreneurial success—drive and stamina, sure. But also a sense of loyalty, honesty and courage that comes from having to fend for yourself out here on the end of the Continent.

I know it’s not easy, because those are my roots too—whether in my first job picking up pop bottles from the side of the road in Cheverie, renting fridges to students in universities, or later as an investment banker here in Halifax and in Toronto.

So, as a politician I have a deep understanding of the conditions that need to be in place to create a pulsing, progressive economy for Atlantic Canada.

Today, I want to tell you about some of the plans I support for this region. My vision for Atlantic Canada is focused on opportunities for the future, not on nostalgia for the past.

That being said, it is important as we move forward to consider the historical perspective. 

A century ago this region was Canada’s industrial heartland.

We were a global shipbuilding power. We were an unrivaled trading region.

We boasted one-quarter of the manufacturing facilities in the country. Both of Canada’s steel mills and half of its rolling mills.

The first of many wrong-headed but well-intentioned programs was John A. MacDonald’s National Policy, which helped central Canada at the expense of Maritime Canada.

The fact is, not since the Age of Sail have the opportunities for Atlantic Canada to compete and succeed in today's global economy been greater.  Today, trade barriers are falling; trade routes are changing; and huge new global markets are emerging.

The location of this region is in the centre of the largest markets in the world.

We’re finally free again to take advantage of our strategic position between two of the biggest trading markets in the world—the EU and the eastern seaboard of the United States.

We’re free to think big, in terms of trading blocks that have nothing to do with man-made political boundaries.

That’s why I’m so elated to see the kind of support that has emerged for the Atlantica concept on both sides of the border. In Canada, the concept has been promoted by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. 

In the United States politicians like Hillary Rodham Clinton are advancing the cause of improved transportation links.

But today, I want to provide my political support, and further to urge that the leadership of the EU be engaged as well. Nothing as significant as Atlantica will happen in this country without political will and leadership.

Increased cooperation between the Atlantic Provinces, Southern and Eastern Quebec, northern New England, and northern New York State makes perfect sense.

It gives this region direct access to a trading block of some 21-million people at a time when the global economic tectonic plates are shifting everywhere.

But Atlantica is even more than that: it’s a gateway to the 460-million people of the EU and the 300-million in the United States.

The objectives of Atlantica include:

-   networking with business leaders in the region

-   promoting growth of East Coast port facilities and an east-west highway network

-   encouraging inter-provincial and international trade through removal of barriers and

-   harmonizing of regulations

You see, in today’s global, economically integrated world, there’s only one-way to succeed: moving goods, people and knowledge in a rapid, seamless and secure fashion.

Keeping commerce flowing doesn’t just mean just good highways. It means safe, well-run airports and efficient, year-round harbours.

A place that has the geographic location, the expertise and infrastructure to become one of the main on and off ramps for the global trade system is a sure winner.

In today’s parlance these key geographic locations on the world trade routes are known as “gateways”.

I don’t need to tell anyone here that Halifax is on the verge of joining that fortunate group. We all know about the magnificent harbour. The city’s strategic location on the Suez-Europe-New YorkGreat Circle Shipping Route” also ensures everyone has to go right past your doorstep.

As a cabinet minister, I was supportive of the Pacific Gateway, and I believe the federal government must be there to partner for the Atlantic Gateway.  And, if for instance the directors of Halterm and Ceres at some point partner to build a single terminal, I would support federal investment.

Because I think leadership is about acting, not reacting. When, I was minister of Public Works, I reformed the department to save $3.5-billion in tax dollars.

It wasn’t easy. But I had a game plan: my department didn’t make a move without ensuring it meant taxpayers received the best value and Canadians the best service.

As Prime Minister that would continue to be my mantra. Let me give you an example: what some call decentralizing government services –which I call bringing government to the people.

With modern telecommunication systems, and the death of distance, the arguments for centralization ring hollow.

This region already understands the kind of benefits such a policy can bring.

n The GST/HST processing centre in Summerside, Prince Edward Island.

n The national headquarters for the Veteran’s Affairs Canada in Charlottetown, PEI

I have a track record in supporting decentralization.  As Minister of Public Works, my department invested $100 million for upgrades and expansion at the Superannuation Processing Centre in Shediac, N.B., extending the life of the centre by 25 years.

But I still think there’s lots more we can do to bring government to the people its meant to serve.

The federal government should launch a thorough review of our departments to identify which departments and agencies could logically be relocated.

I am taking that message to regions across Canada. Last week, In Winnipeg, I said: "There's been a lot of discussion in recent years about the potential of relocating parts of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. There may be a case to be made that better decisions result from government decision makers being located closer to the people being affected by those decisions.

As such, there may also be a case to be made for cities like Winnipeg, Regina, or Saskatoon. As Prime Minister, I would be open to business case proposals for potential new locations. Clearly, we would balance the goals of best value for tax payers and best services for Aboriginal Canadians."

Personally, I don’t need any studies to know that better decisions result when government decision makers are located closer to the people actually being affected by those decisions. That way they can do a better job helping the people affected by those important decisions.

I think the same principle applies elsewhere. We should, perhaps, look at moving some of the principal functions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to locations on the West and East coasts.

Currently, there are more bureaucrats in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa than there are fish in the Rideau Canal.

A policy like that would fulfill another purpose: building better economic opportunities in this region.

Everyone knows about Ireland, the Celtic Tiger.  How Ireland used to be an economic wasteland with a per capita GDP that was just 40 per cent of Canada’s. Then, within a couple of decades, it transformed itself into one of the fastest growing economies on the planet.

Ireland did this in two ways.  Firstly, they invested heavily in education and building a more educated population.  In many ways Atlantic Canada, with our network of post-secondary institutions, already has established itself as a leader in post-secondary education.  To replicate the Irish miracle here, I would invest more in education.  Specifically more in university infrastructure, and, importantly for this region, the government should adopt the official policy of the Liberal Party of Canada that calls for the formula for post-secondary education to be changed to provide that per capita funding be granted to the province of place of learning of the student.

As well, entities like the Atlantic Innovation Fund are essential to stimulate research and development and the commercialization of some of the great ideas emerging from our scientific community.

 The second thing Ireland did right was reform its tax system, making it more attractive to foreign investment.

In a recent speech to the Economic Club of Toronto,  I called for a full review of our tax system to both reform and reduce taxation—particularly corporate taxes.  Tax reform worked in Ireland, Sweden, and Australia, and it can work here too. Reducing taxes on investment attracts capital and talent, improves productivity, and creates prosperity.

A federal investment tax credit could attract investment to Atlantic Canadian enterprises. And frankly, could be used to attract investment in other areas of high unemployment across Canada.   By providing a tax advantage, the federal government would be a silent partner, but decision making on which investments are made would be in the hands of private investors.  I have faith in private sector investors.

Used the right way, an improved tax system would make it possible for more people to harness those innate entrepreneurial qualities that have made our business leaders legends in the commercial world.

We’d have more Irvings, McCains, Sobeys and Jodreys. More Rowes, Shannons and Imbaults. More Braggs, Dobbins and Risleys,  

But the kind of tax credit I’d bring in would do something else: it would help spur the kind of innovation that is a necessity if we’re to return to those heady pre-Confederation days.

I would support federal investment in microcredit mechanisms to help fledgling entrepreneurs in small communities finance their businesses.

Telecommunication infrastructure is as essential to Atlantic Canada's economy as schooners were during prohibition.

But we still have a ways to go with things like rural broadband internet coverage—the kind of innovation that would make it possible for entrepreneurs to enjoy the wonderful lifestyle of places like Great Village, Grand Manan, and Cardigan while still competing in the global marketplace.

Let me give you an example. Pyra Management Consulting Services is a small company based in Summerville not far from my home in Cheverie.

They’re there because it’s clean and beautiful. And because they’re only 50 minutes from the Halifax International Airport, which makes it easy to get to their clients, most of whom are in the health care industry.

Since there’s no broadband in Summerville they’ve had to use a satellite to get net access. Sure, it’s better than the telephone. But it’s still a lot slower than broadband—and subject to more lost-service too.

Smart, ambitious companies shouldn’t be penalized for choosing Atlantic Canada. They need access to the best, most up-to-date technologies.

They also need top-notch employees. As PM, my government will streamline and strengthen our immigration programs to bring more skilled workers to Canada.  By strengthening our Atlantic Canadian advantage we will attract more of that talent to Atlantic Canada.

You see the jobs of tomorrow aren’t going to be the same ones our grand parents and parents held. They may barely resemble what we do for a living.

Sure traditional, resource-based industries will always be a life-blood of this region. But we have to find new ways to be a world leader.

Clean Energy is a case in point. Recently in a speech in Calgary, I proposed tax and regulatory measures to increase the research, development and commercialization of new energy technologies.

Atlantic Canada particularly can be a leader in wind and tidal power. Just last month, a Californian ocean power expert told a conference that a tidal power plant in the Minas Basin would have the capacity to serve 117,000 homes.

To put that number in context, he’s examined tidal sites throughout the U.S. The biggest one he ran across could only generate enough power for 27,000 homes.

In other words, the potential is immense. Just like the larger economic possibilities for Atlantic Canada.

In his recent "Progress Magazine" article, "Needed: A Leader For Atlantic Canada", Jim Meek said:

"Brison is positioned in the right place-in the middle of the liberal leadership campaign--to deliver transformational leadership for the region.

His informed interest in regional economic growth can serve him - and us well.”

I accept Jim's challenge.

Thank you.

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