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  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Keynote Address to the Breakfast Event with Business Leaders hosted by the Beacon Council: Canada and Florida: Transforming Relationships

Miami, Florida, Thursday, May 26, 2016


It’s wonderful to join you here in Miami. I can see why it’s called the “Magic City”!

There’s something special here that attracts worldwide attention and global talents, including Canada’s.

Before getting into our own relationship, though, there are many to thank for helping us highlight the Florida-Canada connection and for promoting Miami’s diverse opportunities:

Our host and partner, the Beacon Council, which certainly recognizes the importance of this relationship.

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, a long-standing partner of ours, who is currently planning a major trade mission to Canada in the coming months.

And, eMerge Americas, which held its third annual conference here last month. Canada was thrilled to have a presence for the first time at this very successful conference, which helped draw some much-deserved attention to this city as an innovation hub.

There’s even a Canadian link here!

Ernie Diaz, the Beacon Council’s chair, is the regional president of TD Bank in Florida. TD, of course, is a Canadian-founded institution—TD being short for Toronto-Dominion. The U.S. entity of TD has more than 160 locations in Florida alone. Mr. Diaz, I’m grateful to you and to the entire Beacon Council for the work that you do.

And what of the relationship between Canada and Florida?

We have to remember a number here: the number one.

Canada is Florida’s number one customer and partner.

Our involvement in this economy goes beyond the well-known stereotype of Canadian snowbirds who escape our cold climate every winter

Canada appreciates and values its close working relationship with Florida.

Let me share with you a few statistics:

  • More than 600 000 jobs in Florida are dependent on trade and investment with Canada.
  • Our trade is worth $8.1 billion each year.
  • Canada is the state’s most significant economic partner in trade, agriculture, investment, tourism and real estate. Concerning agriculture, we buy nearly a quarter of all of Florida’s agricultural exports.
  • Canada is a recognized global leader in public-private partnerships and sees increased potential in working together to benefit Florida companies and Floridians as they meet the state’s infrastructure needs. This could be an area of future collaboration.  
  • And, perhaps the best sign of exchange: the Florida Panthers boast the most Canadian players of all NHL teams, including team captain Willie Mitchell!

In other words, Canada is deeply rooted here in Florida, and especially here in Miami.

We are your neighbours, your investors, your customers, your partners.

And we work alongside you for the benefit of both our peoples.

The question now is, why work together? Specifically, why should Miami look to Canada and vice versa?

Because this is a transformative city.

From life sciences and education to technology, to film, to art, Miami is diversifying and discovering new drivers of its economy.

In other words, Miami is becoming a premiere place of innovation in the U.S. with a national and international audience.

Innovation is one of the driving forces behind society’s forward motion. Our ability to commercialize innovative ideas is important to our future prosperity. It can lead to the creation of new jobs, new approaches and new industries.

By acting collectively, industry leaders, policy makers, entrepreneurs and academics can create the conditions in which innovation-based economies grow and flourish.

Here is where Canada is poised to help.

Places like Miami, places like Toronto, Waterloo, Vancouver, and so many other cities in Canada are important.

They’re important because in spite of our ability to communicate instantaneously around the world, talent and capital still need a place to call home. And they still tend to gather in clusters, or “innovation ecosystems,” as they’re sometimes called.

Creating these kinds of innovation clusters can lead to all kinds of good things, both economically and socially.

Currently, Canada is building clusters of excellence around disciplines such as big data, the Internet of things, and other aspects of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” which was the theme of this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

One of the ways we can address challenges we face is by intensifying our focus on innovation.  

Let me share another statistic, this one on academic publishing.

This is an area where Canadians are very strong partners.

Almost half of the science and engineering articles published by Canadians are internationally co-authored, and by far our most frequent partners on these papers are U.S. researchers (47.6 per cent of Canada’s co-publications are co-authored with Americans).

There are many reasons why Canadians are such great collaborators, particularly in innovation, but I’ll just list four of them:

First, Canadians believe deeply in the value of working together and learning from one another. The first Europeans who came to Canada 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.

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 and two official languages of Canada. This approach fosters social harmony and makes our country more outward-looking and global.

Fundamentally, Canada’s approach is an inclusive one. It’s not perfect, of course, and we struggle to reconcile our differences like any other society. But most Canadians are remarkably open and willing to work across borders, cultures and disciplines, and that includes when looking south to our American friends and neighbours.

One major reason why we need to strengthen our partnerships is because we live in a dynamic, rapidly changing world and we need to compete.

I mentioned before that Miami is transforming itself, becoming a hub not only of art, but also of innovation. This city is also a gateway to Latin America and is home to a diverse citizenry, similar to Canada’s.

Taken together, there are a lot of opportunities for Canadians to invest in and further enhance our relationship.

And we’re well-positioned to do more!

Already, 315 Canadian-owned companies operate in the State of Florida—and that number is growing each year.

What does that translate into?

Over 42 700 direct jobs throughout the state and more than $1.7 billion in salary dollars. Of course, that doesn’t count the contributions made through taxes and through charitable donations.

As you can see, Canadians are making a difference here.

And yet, there’s potential to do so much more.

Canadians and Floridians need to redouble our efforts to forge new links and partnerships. In some ways, I think our great friendship has perhaps allowed us to become a bit complacent. We become used to our way of thinking of each other and have not taken advantage of the opportunities to evolve our views of each other.

So, with all this, where do we go from here?

I think the answer is simple: we go further.

Let me rephrase: we must go further.

By that I mean we have to look at our relationship and reflect on what’s working well and where we can do better, and move towards an even broader, more vigorous engagement.

If you remember anything of what I say today, remember this: I’d like all of you to think of my visit here as a threshold moment.

I often draw inspiration from John Buchan, a novelist and historian who came to Canada from England and became governor general in 1935. He used the final words of his biography of the Scottish patriot Montrose to press home humankind’s eternal duty to infuse old truths with new passion: “No great cause is ever fully lost or fully won,” he wrote. “The battle must always be renewed and the creed restated.”

Let’s renew our friendship and rediscover our partnerships.

Let this be the start of an even richer and more dynamic phase in the relationship between Canada and Florida.

Thank you.