I was pleased to be able to join fellow Rotarians at Downtown Rotary last week. You can view my comments above. I was pleased to be in Calgary to discuss government initiatives and progress.
It is a great honour and privilege to be here at the downtown Rotary Club, a club that I have been a member of for close to nine years.
I know that many of you here have not only spent many years contributing to the Rotary but also to this great city, province and country.
I also recognize this club’s efforts for Rotary International and making the world a better place.
I have been given opportunities – as the son of two teachers, and as a member of the middle class. And these opportunities were created by choices made many years before I was born.
These were choices made by policy makers, community leaders, Rotarians, and more – many without any intention of reaping the rewards of their vision for the future.
It’s a vision that had us as a community come together to build and prosper.
I have lived in Calgary my whole life, growing up here and going to public schools and playing hockey and baseball here made an important difference in my life –
I love this city and I take Calgary’s and Alberta’s success to heart.
My own father, whom many of you know well, grew up in the mean streets of Medicine Hat. His Mom, my grandmother –
worked in grocery stores, post offices doing odd jobs throughout her life. My Grandfather Chris was a jack of all trades but a master of none.
They didn’t have a lot.
Yet despite these struggles, my grandparents owned their own home, my Dad went to the local public school, played on the local hockey and baseball teams and went to the local public library.
The same ones as the wealthiest kids in town.
Really, the one dividing line was that those kids vacationed in Victoria or Florida, and my Dad went to Piapot, Saskatchewan.
He looks back and says “I had an amazing childhood. I moved to Calgary, got a university degree, became a teacher, had a successful career and raised my own family.”
My Dad felt like he was part of the community. He didn’t feel a large gap between himself and those who may have had more because their opportunities were the same.
Back then, in Medicine Hat, no matter your income, people saw their neighbours succeeding, they saw their communities growing and I’m not so certain that exists as much today.
What I am trying to say, is that a kid born in the last few years had less of a chance of getting to the middle class than my dad did, being born in 1943. Our Government is focused on fixing that.
I am proud to be updating you today on the important work done by our government to ensure this city, and our province, have the support they need to continue being important players in the Canadian mosaic.
I may be going over old ground here but in my view, it was extremely important that the constituents of Calgary Centre made the choice they did, and that Canadians made the choice they did.
Let’s face it, we were going to get 8 or 9 conservatives elected in this City, why not throw a Liberal Cabinet Minister in the mix.
Conservatives have taken your votes for granted and Liberals tended to overlook this province – but in my view, electing Liberals in Calgary makes all political parties pay more attention to this City and that’s a good thing.
I know Calgary is struggling. I hear it every day.
Over the previous ten years, Alberta was falling behind in infrastructure investments, there was no real effort to diversify the economy and we saw no progress toward getting our oil and gas to tidewater in a sustainable way.
It has been with the approvals of Line 3 and Kinder Morgan – with shovels in the ground this Fall – and the approval of the Transcanada NGTL Expansion, and Towerbirch, that we are twinning and expanding pipe.
These decisions were based on science, reason, common sense and consultations with Indigenous peoples.
With conditions, we are moving forward with getting access to international markets, something that the previous government struggled to do.
Our Prime Minister has said, time and time again, that it’s his job to get access to new markets, and we’re going to do so.
These decisions aren’t just about boosting the economy.
The Government has a responsibility to ensure the right infrastructure gets built, in the right way – the environmentally responsible way.
Our most recent budget demonstrates our Government’s commitment to Alberta. A plan that will grow the economy of tomorrow while ensuring the equality of opportunity for all Canadians. And Calgary is a big part of that.
But before I continue on that point, I want to talk about another city that once struggled – the City of Pittsburgh.
By 1970, thanks to a booming steel industry – Pittsburgh had almost full employment.
Pittsburgh had built the steel that built the country, the steel that had moved the American century forward.
And it was a great business.
It was a good time to live in that City. Unfortunately it didn’t last.
Fast forward to the year 1993. A new mayor was elected to run a City whose main industry had completely collapsed.
In the face of a crumbling economy, people were calling for tax cuts and austerity, the new Mayor instead invested in social infrastructure. He had a vision.
Fast forward another 20 years – Pittsburgh has a diversified economy, low cost of living, a rich infrastructure for education and culture and has been ranked as one of the World’s Most Livable Cities.
1,600 technology firms operate out of Pittsburgh and the region is a leader in green environmental design.
Pittsburgh is a success story. And I think of this story often when discussing the economic challenges we face right here in Calgary and across Alberta.
Here’s the good news, we’re not Pittsburgh. We have a great industry that we continue to build on, with spin-off industries that employ thousands, but we have to view our recent challenges as a wakeup call.
We are entering a long-term transition away from relying upon fossil fuels solely as an economic and energy source.
The former Prime Minister said it, this Prime Minister has said it, and every oil company knows it. The world, also, knows it.
Suncor recently stated:
We support a broad-based price on carbon as an important tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change. And we will continue to participate in this important policy discussion
So we have to build on our strengths. We have to prepare.
We have to use this opportunity to continue developing our resources, but also to understand and accept that times are changing.
Alberta will have to embrace that change to thrive not only today, but 75 years from now.
With the sharp drop in global oil prices and the glut in shale oil around the world, Albertans fully understand how issues beyond our borders can be challenging.
But I know that Albertans persevere and turn challenges into opportunities – just like Pittsburgh did.
And Our Government is making sure that Canadians have the tools and skills they need to seize those opportunities.
Our plan puts Canada’s skilled, talented, and creative people at the heart of a more innovative future economy – one that will create middle class jobs today and tomorrow.
And while we don’t envision oil and gas going the way of steel, we can make ourselves more resilient and prosperous.
It is a plan we started to put in place 18 months ago, when we lowered taxes for middle class Canadians.
It was our first act as a government: reduce the burden on middle class Canadians.
Since January 2016, nearly nine million Canadians are benefitting from lower taxes on each pay cheque.
To be able to afford that tax cut, the government had to raise the taxes for most of people in this room. And I’m not apologizing for it; it is just good policy.
In the words of Vito Corleone – The Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.”
We introduced a more generous and better-targeted Canada Child Benefit, which has lifted 300,000 children out of poverty.
It benefits 9 out of 10 families more, and makes raising a family for middle-income Canadians that much easier.
And we have introduced an $11.2 Billion National Housing Strategy that will put roofs over our most vulnerable.
This includes many of the 14k people at risk of homelessness and the 3,200 people in Calgary who need this help right now to rebuild their lives.
People like Steve Allan, former president of this Rotary Club and former head of the Calgary Plan to End Homelessness – understand how important it is to give people a place to live.
This is good public policy. Not only does it give them a means to move their lives forward, it saves the much higher costs of shelter and emergency services.
In fact, for every $10 invested in social housing, the government saves $22 on the other end.
Aside from the cost savings this is the dignified thing to do. It is the right thing to do, and we believe that in the next ten years, our investments will have a huge impact.
And, in fact, we’re already seeing an impact.
Canada is leading growth in the G7 and Alberta is leading growth in Canada.
To quote a Bloomberg report from last Friday – “Alberta’s economy is more than just back on its feet, it’s about to run faster than any other region in Canada.”
The National unemployment rate is down to 6.5% and employment in the province has increased by almost 20,000 jobs since July 2016.
And over the last year, we have seen promising growth in consumer spending and in the housing sector.
But I know Alberta families have had it tough.
We can do more to help the economy and help Albertans access the jobs of today and prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.
That is exactly what Budget 2017 is all about.
It is about giving Canadians the skills they need to thrive in a changing economy.
It is about creating opportunities for lifelong learning—so that the next job is a better job.
It is about seizing the opportunities that come from innovation.
This is a time of transition – which is never easy. With the rise of globalization, automation, and computerization economies are changing – but it is also a time of great opportunity.
And we want to get ahead of the curve. We are ensuring that Canada is successful in this new environment by investing in the middle class, education, and skills training.
We, as a country, must set a path that will allow all of us to benefit from these changes.
Our Government is taking us down this path.
We’re investing in people, because Canada’s greatest strength is the talent and creativity of Canadians.
To make sure more unemployed and underemployed Canadians access the training and employment supports they need to find and keep good jobs, we are significantly boosting federal support by $2.7 billion to provinces and territories.
For Canadians looking for work, this means more opportunities to upgrade their skills, gain experience, or get help to start their own business.
It also means more support, like employment counselling, to help them plan their careers.
And we are doing much the same for Veterans – I recently announced the Veteran’s Education and Training benefit to cover up to 40k in tuition and other costs for members who served 6 years, and 80k for members who served 12.
This will be a game changer for people transitioning out of the military.
To help more young Canadians, including vulnerable youth, get a strong start in their careers, we will invest in the Youth Employment Strategy.
Taken together, Budget 2017 is a comprehensive set of skills and training measures that prepare Canada’s greatest resource—our people – for this new economy.
We need to build on our established record of success by making big bets on sectors of the economy that hold enormous potential for future growth.
This includes the highly competitive areas of advanced manufacturing, health and bio-sciences, clean resources, agriculture and agri-food.
We have an ability in Calgary and Alberta and western Canada to lead and feed the world.
Your government understands that and is developing a Hub around this idea. Agriculture is our past, our present and, our future.
Globally, the clean technology market is a more than trillion dollar industry, and will continue to grow over the next decade.
Places like Alberta, with their significant experience in energy innovation, are ideally placed to lead this growth.
Albertan entrepreneurs are innovative, capable, and energetic. Our government recognizes this, and we are committed to helping them compete in the 21st century.
We recently invested $75 million in the University of Calgary to develop low carbon technology for our oil and gas companies to fuel a world that still wants oil, but needs carbon reduction.
Further, there was an additional $78 million through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund to build the University of Calgary as a possible hub for a future site of a supercluster.
This is in addition to $82 million from the province, philanthropy, and the university’s own infrastructure dollars.
These investments have been greeted and celebrated as historic, incredible, and game-changing, particularly in the pages of the Herald.
Our Government knows that better is possible.
And we know the best way to deliver more prosperity to the greatest number of Canadians is by making smart investments in people and in the economy so that both prosper over the long term.
In the first year alone we approved $4.2 B in infrastructure spending in Alberta. This is more than the last government approved in 5.
This is the Green Line LRT, flood mitigation and rural roads – infrastructure that should have been built a decade ago.
And we remain committed to doing this in a manner that is realistic, sustainable, and responsible, while maintaining our low debt-to-GDP ratio.
We are building a country where everyone has the opportunity to contribute, and has a real chance at success.
And that is something I would like to touch on before I close. Because we know that our measures will foster growth, but they will foster something much more important in my view.
That is, equality of opportunity.
As the politics of fear and division take over countries that are trying to adapt, whose economies are struggling and whose populations are turning to populist politicians, it is more important than ever for Canada to embrace and face the 21st Century economy, to welcome new Canadians and to invest in our strengths.
We must ensure we are positioned to take advantage of this time of transition. To learn from the past. To build the economy of tomorrow that will benefit every Canadian.
In close – what an honour and privilege it is for me to represent Calgary Centre and in fact this entire city in the National Government.
Hopefully I can do my part to make this a better country and in addition, I get to share my life with the people of this City and all of you. It is a true joy.
Thank you so much.
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