For the record, here’s an edited transcript of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s remarks during a Q&A at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 21:
If I’m able to stand up and make a pitch for Canada on the world stage, it’s because Canadians allow me to. What people talk about—welcoming refugees, and being open to the world, it’s not me deciding that we’re going to do that and imposing it on all of you. It’s Canadians who’ve asked me: can we do more? Can we welcome refugees into our communities? Provinces, municipalities stepping up. Canadians understanding that we share a responsibility in the world, and as I talk with people on the world stage, whether it’s economic conferences like Davos, or talking to global investors, people are very, very interested.
They’re seeing that rate of return and profits they thought they were going to be making in different parts of the world haven’t materialized the same way because the risks are so high, and people are looking for safe places to invest their capital for long term. And Canada is—I mean there’s lots of metrics you can look at that says it might be a little better to invest in this or that or the other thing, but as a whole what we have here in a well-educated, diverse workforce, in access to resources, in positioning geographically to access markets back to Europe, sell to the United States, across the Pacific to Asia.
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Canada has extraordinary opportunities along with social, economic, political stability that especially with the uncertainty about nativism, populism and anti-globalization, people on the world stage are very very interested in: What is the secret of Canada? The secret of Canada of course is Canadians. We understand that diversity is a source of strength. We know that if we work hard and support our neighbours, we’ll do better than if we work hard and ignore our neighbours. We know that success works when we create—as Naheed always speaks so eloquently about—strong communities. That’s what we’ve managed to do. That’s why we are more resilient than so many countries in the world. And that’s why the global community of investors, entrepreneurs, are looking at Canada with two eyes: First of all, how can they invest and benefit from what Canada is doing, but also how can they draw on the success and the leadership that Canada is showing and has shown for a long time, to benefit their own countries and their own communities.
So I’m extremely, extremely positive about the opportunity to engage with the world because I have a great story to tell. The story of all of you here in Calgary. The story of all Canadians across this country who get where the world is going and know that we can be leaders within it.
I think we look around the world at the anti-globalization sentiments, the anti-trade sentiments, the nativism, the wariness of outsiders, the closing off of borders, the intolerance, and I think we’ve got to understand that a lot of it, for the vast majority of people comes from anxiety about the future. Anxiety of their ability to continue to work at a good job, and eventually retire into security, the opportunity for their kids to get good job and good opportunities.
And this is something that I’ve been talking about for the past five or six years. The fact that the growth agenda that was supposed to benefit everyone across western economies has benefitted disproportionally the top and hasn’t given enough benefits to the middle class or those trying to join it. The danger within that, is that if we didn’t start turning that around and showing that growth can be good for everyone, the middle class is going to start withdrawing its support for a growth agenda.
What are the elements of a growth agenda? Tax competitiveness, free trade, international trade, investments in infrastructure and innovation, in research, openness to immigration. These are things that lead to growth and if people start withdrawing their support from that, not only will they be worse off, but we’ll all be worse off. And that’s why the single-minded focus that I’ve put on our government is growing the middle class, economic growth that benefits the middle class [unintelligible….] and it’s because if you do that you create a strong society in which people are confident, don’t feel that their own success has to come at the expense of their neighbours, and the neighbours’ success won’t come at the expense of their success.
We can continue to demonstrate that what has made Canada successful over the years has been this understanding that diversity is strength, that trade benefits everyone, that being open to the world and engaged with the world is much better for us all than closing off and being fearful. And right now that trend line around the world is causing a lot of anxiety, but it’s not having the same purchase in Canada. Now we have to be very very thoughtful about demonstrating that we understand that creating opportunities for everyone, creating progress that works for all Canadians, giving everyone a real and fair chance to succeed has to be at the centre of our approach. It’s something that Canadians understand intuitively and quite frankly as the world is a bit shaky on this, we have a responsibility to showcase that we can make international trade, successful economies, growth agendas work for everyone.
We’ve always had an advantage that way in Canada, and we need to continue to build on that and really drive that message forward. And that is what our government, that is what most provincial governments are very much focused on, and certainly something that I know is shared broadly here within the Alberta chamber of commerce community.