Keynote Address to the World Affairs Council of Atlanta: Georgia On Our Minds
Atlanta, Georgia, Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Thank you for that kind introduction, and thank you all for your warm welcome.
We arrived yesterday and we’ve found that warm welcomes are standard in Atlanta!
Southerners are of course renowned for their hospitality, but we’re also discovering what a dynamic innovation, research, education and business hub this is.
Like Atalanta—the fleet-footed goddess with whom this city shares a name— you’re racing ahead in these times of change!
How do you do it?
One way is through the spirit of innovation and collaboration that exists here. This gathering of leaders convened by the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and its partners—the Technology Association, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Georgia Tech—is an illustration of that spirit.
Today at Tech Square, I have seen evidence of the creativity and drive behind your success in the form of individual start-ups and an innovative coding program for under-served Atlanta youth.
Last year, the Consulate General of Canada partnered with educational groups in Atlanta to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs for girls and to link young women from Georgia and Canada by videoconference. This allowed them to learn from each other’s experiences, and I want to commend all who were part of this great initiative.
So with this theme of partnership across borders in mind, I’d like to do three things in my remarks today.
One, I want to talk about the potential to strengthen the innovation partnership that already exists between Canada and Georgia.
Two, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you as to why I think Canada is such a great innovation partner, and how we can apply our learning to strengthen that partnership.
And three, I want to suggest that you consider linking up with Canadian companies to innovate.
One last thing: I then want to hear your ideas and your questions as to how we can go further in our work together!
But first, let me express my deep admiration for the very significant friendship that exists between Canada and the United States.
In my view, no two nations in the world have benefitted so enormously from working with one another.
It’s certainly true from the Canadian perspective.
In fact, my own family is an example.
I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and my mother was born across the border in Soo, Michigan, where my grandfather worked on the St. Marys River as a lock operator.
Those locks are nothing short of an engineering marvel. They were built in the 19th century, and I’ve come to view them as emblematic of the Canada-U.S. relationship.
Like those waterways, our two countries are separate, but parallel, and we work together to our mutual benefit. Our people-to-people ties, our economic and cultural relationships, our political and military partnerships—I could go on and on about all we share.
A critical component of the Canada-U.S. picture is the Canada-Georgia relationship.
Let me be specific.
Canada is Georgia’s top export market and its fifth largest source of imports.
Canada is Georgia’s third largest trading partner, with goods and services exchanged totalling $10.6 billion in 2015.
On the investment side, Canada has more than 250 businesses operating in Georgia, which together employ more than 10,000 people.
In fact, based on a study commissioned by the Government of Canada, more than 330,000 jobs in Georgia depend upon trade and investment with Canada.
Think about that for a moment!
One very prominent, recent example of our mutually beneficial ties is Delta Air Lines’ purchase of 75 C-Series jets from Montréal-based Bombardier, with options on 50 more.
It’s very exciting news! Last year, Delta President Ed Bastian said the C-Series’ geared turbofan is the first big innovation since the Boeing 787 revolutionized the composite structure for the fuselage of the airplane.
And that’s just one example of a relationship that comprises trade in goods and services, investment and a shared focus on new growth industries related to health care, clean tech, finance, cybersecurity and public-private partnerships.
This is to say nothing of our many people-to-people ties and our cultural and educational exchanges.
You get the point: the Canada-Georgia relationship is doing very well.
And yet, we can go so much further as partners, particularly in the spheres of innovation and learning.
We have so much to gain by doing so.
This brings me to the second point I want to make today: how Canada is a great innovation partner for Georgia, and how learning is the key to strengthening our partnership.
Because I believe it is through learning institutions such as Georgia Tech and its counterparts in Canada that we will reach the next level of collaboration.
Let me go back to Bombardier in Montréal to draw on a personal experience of how learning and innovation reinforce each other.
For many wonderful years, I was privileged to serve as president of McGill University in Montréal, and one of the projects I worked on during my time there was to help establish a professional master’s degree program in engineering.
The program was developed along with five other regional universities and the local aerospace industry, which had set us in motion with a specific problem: in the absence of a sufficient number of qualified Canadian employees, companies were being forced to recruit talent from abroad.
Furthermore, after gaining valuable work experience in Quebec, many of those foreign employees soon returned to their home countries or left for other destinations, leaving the aerospace sector facing a constant shortage of workers.
The solution was to cultivate a workforce in Canada able to fill those jobs. Once this goal was identified, we worked towards it through constant communication and close collaboration.
This was a key component in the remarkable success of Quebec’s aerospace industry.
The great lesson from that experience was how learning institutions, local industry and business and the community could work together to tackle challenges and create prosperity.
A similar process of university-community-business collaboration took place in Waterloo, home of BlackBerry, and a city where I served as president of the University of Waterloo from 1999–2010.
I see something similar happening here in Atlanta with Tech Square, which brings all of these players together in the same space. You are blessed to be at the centre of so much creativity and innovation. We can learn from your success.
This process of collaboration through learning institutions, communities and innovators can be extended across our international border to the benefit of both Canada and Georgia.
Already, there is significant innovation collaboration taking place between Canadians and Georgians.
So how do we take it to the next level?
Well, let me tell you about some of the attractive features of working with Canada.
There are many reasons why Canadians are such great collaborators in learning and innovation, but I’ll limit myself to five of them:
First, Canadians believe deeply in the value of working together and learning from one another. We came to this belief early and out of necessity: the first Europeans were wholly dependent on their willingness to work together and to learn from Aboriginal peoples.
Second, Canada has tried to make quality education more affordable to all. Because of this, generations of Canadians have had a better chance of overcoming barriers such as discrimination, poverty and social immobility.
We have tried to ensure a level playing field because it is both the right thing to do and the bright thing to do, as it deepens our talent pool.
Third, Canada has been successful in combining accessible education and excellence. It’s not a case of “either/or,” but rather of “both/and.”
Fourth, new Canadians are encouraged to retain and celebrate their culture and language, while embracing the values of Canada. This approach fosters social harmony and makes our country more outward-looking and global.
Fifth, in recent years Canada has made substantial investments in research and innovation in areas as disparate as information and communications technology, energy, life sciences and the environment.
So, I call on all of you to seize on the openness and the innovation that exists among Canadians and to work towards deepening and formalizing partnerships between Canada and Georgia. I call on you to amplify the innovation exchanges taking place, to explore the opportunities for learning and mutual benefit.
Let me close with an image of my vision of how we can innovate and learn together, borrowed from the third president of these United States, Thomas Jefferson.
President Jefferson used the image of a burning candle to illustrate his Enlightenment values and the importance of sharing knowledge and the nature of learning.
The candle symbolizes not only enlightenment, but also the transmission of learning from one person to another. We could also say from one country to another.
And it’s important to keep in mind that when you light your unlit candle from the flame of my lit candle, my light is not diminished, it is enhanced.
The sharing of knowledge collectively enlightens and improves us.
Georgia is very much on the minds of Canadians these days, so let’s work together to strengthen this important relationship. Let’s learn and innovate together.