Media Center



June 5, 2006 - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Mr. Secretary-General,
Mr. Assistant Secretary-General,
Chairman, Colleagues:

First, let me thank you, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Morales Troncoso, for your warm words of welcome and congratulate you for your much-deserved ascendency to the Chair of this meeting, in the Dominican Republic.

This is my very first OAS meeting and I am honoured to join in the traditions of this Assembly in such esteemed company and to be part of the Foreign Ministers family here at the table, at this important gathering.

AGood Governance and Development in the Knowledge-Based Society@ is certainly an important topic in many countries, including Canada. It is a worthy theme of this Assembly. It has become a major topic of discussion and is one that I am pleased to participate in, here in Santo Domingo.

Faced, therefore, with both an impressive theme and an impressive group of people, I thought I would approach this the best way I know how B by talking briefly about my region and the Canadian perspective and the understanding that the Canadian government brings to these issues and takes to these important discussions.

I am fortunate to come from a beautiful part of the world, a small province in Canada called Nova Scotia. For centuries, we built our economy on our comparative strengths, which were not unlike those of the Caribbean B fishing, mining, forestry, and agriculture, together with the secondary industries that supported them, including boat building.

In fact, many of our traditional exports went south to the Caribbean and beyond, and that is one of the reasons I am so glad to be here. We were original free-traders, many years before it was talked about in a formal capacity. As I met with representatives of the CARICOM community, this morning, I was reminded by Mrs. Billie Miller, of Barbados, of the great tradition that existed, when salt, fish and lumber went to the Caribbean in exchange for rhum, sugar, molasses and fruit. And there is boat building that went on, as the Age of Sail was still very much alive.

In Nova Scotia, we have always been opened to the world. As exporters, sailors, teachers, investors, we have always felt at home in the Americas. I want to signal early on that you can count on my personal support and commitment to expand Canadian relations throughout this hemisphere.

Lorsque nous songeons aux industries primaires, c=est l=image d=êtres rudes affrontant les éléments pour gagner leur vie qui vient à l=esprit, et il y a là beaucoup de vrai. Mais il est un autre élément de notre patrimoine qui est loin d=être aussi rustique. En effet, dès les débuts du Canada, la Nouvelle-Écosse a été un grand centre d=éducation. En réalité, notre capacité de produire des diplômés instruits et pleins de talents dépassait notre capacité de leur trouver du travail, si bien que le reste du Canada a énormément profité de l=attachement de la Nouvelle-Écosse à l=éducation, puisque nos gens ont pris des postes importants dans l=industrie, les universités et les services gouvernementaux de tout le Canada.

Aujourd=hui, tout cela change. D=une manière frappante et tout à fait visible, les talents de chez nous restent chez nous et il y a pour eux des emplois qui les tiennent occupés et productifs. Plus important encore, beaucoup de jeunes créent des emplois B pour eux-mêmes et pour d=autres B dans des domaines qui sont entièrement nouveaux dans cette partie du monde.

Suddenly, from being a resource-dependent province, we now have encountered a booming knowledge community that just keeps expanding and finding new ways to express talent and business sense. This is a good thing, because many traditional natural resource industries often depend on fluctuating world markets and have declined. If we hadn=t been able to expand on the knowledge-based economy and industry, we would have been in serious trouble. And I am sure this has been a common experience.

How did this happen? A tradition of education certainly contributes. A safe, clean and attractive place to live is certainly one of the basics, which helps. Government support in various shapes is not insignificant. But it is the will of the people, their ingenuity, business investment and entrepreneurship, that will truly lead to success.

Trying to figure out how we can promote more of this success is one of the reasons I first entered public life. Now, as a member of the Canadian government and as part of a team that is now moving forward, we have the chance to do just that. We want to capitalize on natural advantages and relationships, and modernize our traditional relationships. If I can put it in nautical terms, Arecapture the wind@ that once drove our economies.

We all know that, for modern economies, the knowledge-based industries are critically important. This is as true for a resource-rich country like Canada but also for countries like Singapore or Switzerland where a lack of natural resources has required knowledge-based economic activities from the beginning. We are developing policies over the next year to promote a more competitive, innovative and productive Canadian economy.

Let me give you just one fact that brings home the need for constant innovation that has broader applications for all communities: more than half the jobs in Canada today did not exist prior to 1997. This demonstrates the enormous growth that is happening in our economy in high tech.

Innovation is one of the most important priorities and we are committed to getting more people actively involved in our own economy as well as in other economies. Jobs lead to prosperity and better quality of life. The old expression Aa rising tide raises all boats@ comes to mind.

The Canadian approach is no secret: we want government to facilitate creativity, not stifle it through excessive controls and excessive taxes. We believe government can help entrepreneurs create jobs, but it cannot necessarily tell them how to do so. They create the conditions and confidence for investment, both domestically and internationally, through sources and contacts. We believe that people who are given the political, economic and social space to be innovative will create entire worlds of opportunity. We believe that people who know that their right under the law is protected will be prepared to take the risks involved in the investment, because they know that they do so on a bedrock of security and stability.

It brings us back to the theme of this Assembly, Mr. President. As I see it, good governance in a knowledge-based society demands a functioning democracy under law where individual rights are protected and individual creativity is encouraged and embraced. Knowledge is indeed power, and political power does its job best when it serves knowledge, and when it provides its citizens with the means and the support that they need to be more creative and more prosperous.

It is a mutually beneficial relationship that we value greatly. Canada has considerable experience and expertise, and we know that other countries in this room also have important lessons to teach. To be frank, we are here to learn as much as to share our own experiences.

Canada will continue to support efforts to bridge the digital divide by renewing our support for the Institute for Connectivity in the Americas and hopes that others will do the same. We also remain committed to working within the OAS and with national governments as well to strengthen democratic governance. We want to work with our hemispheric partners so that, together, we can find ways to promote greater innovation and prosperity throughout the Americas.

Thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity for this intervention. Muchas gracias y hasta luego.