Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at the World Economic Forum
Thank you Professor Schwab for your warm welcome, and for bringing this impressive group together. I'd like to take a moment just off the top to recognize a founder of the World Economic Forum and a great Canadian, Maurice Strong, who passed away just a couple of months ago. Maurice showed incredible leadership in a variety of issues facing the world today, in particular, early and compelling leadership on climate change. I'd like to all remember him for a moment.
Today we are gathered here to contemplate whether we are in the stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution about to begin. What a breathtaking possibility that is. Steam power changed the world utterly. So did electricity. And, more recently, computers. And now we may be on the cusp of change equal in magnitude and of a far swifter pace. New technology is always dazzling but we don't want technology simply because it is dazzling, we want it, create it, and support it because it improves people's lives. If we didn't build the public infrastructure in the early 20th century to support mass electrification only the wealthy would have had heat and running water. And with that, the creation of the middle class, the base of resilient economies, would never have happened.
Technology needs to serve the cause of human progress, not serve as a substitute for it, or as a distraction from its absence. Simply put, everybody needs to benefit from growth in order to sustain growth.
It's not hard to see how the connections between computing, information, robotics, and biotechnologies could deliver spectacular progress. It's also not hard to imagine how it can produce mass unemployment and greater inequality. The technology itself will not determine the future we get; our choices will. Leadership will. I believe in positive, ambitious leadership. I don't believe leaders should prey on the anxiety of the disenfranchised. Leadership should be focused on extending the ladder of opportunity to everyone, on pursuing policies that create growth, and on ensuring that growth produces tangible results for everyone. Positive leadership creates a virtuous cycle. The more results we achieve for people, the more we grow the middle class and create real chances for those working hard to join the middle class, the more people will grant you a license for further ambition. We need to trust citizens. We need to give people the tools and ability to help them succeed.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will not be successful unless it creates real opportunities for the billions who weren't able to join us here this week. In Canada we get this. We need education to enable people to learn, think, and adapt. We need infrastructure that supports change. We need policies that encourage science, innovation, and research. We need societies that recognize diversity as a source of strength, not as a source of weakness. And we need governments willing to invest in making all that happen while recognizing the dynamic innovation that happens in the private sector.
Just look at Silicon Valley. It crackles with ideas and experimentation. Diversity is a major reason for Silicon Valley's creativity. Its engineers and entrepreneurs come from all over the world. Each brings a different perspective. And when those diverse ways of seeing and thinking come together they spark creativity. Diversity fosters new ideas. New ideas generate the experimentation needed to make the most of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And diversity is something leaders can do much about.
Recently a New York Times reporter asked the president of Y Combinator, a major Silicon Valley start-up funder, if any one school stood out as a source of graduates with sparkling new ideas. He said there's one; it's the University of Waterloo, Canada's University of Waterloo. Why does a Silicon Valley entrepreneur look to Waterloo as a great source for brilliant minds and brilliant ideas? Well, it has high intellectual standards of course, and it values entrepreneurship, but diversity is its indispensable ingredient. Waterloo's students come from everywhere. Fully half of the graduate engineering students are international. And the University of Waterloo's domestic students are drawn from Canada's student population, one of the most diverse in the world.
Now many of you have reached out to me recently in thanks for Canada's compassionate response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Let me tell you something. When I welcomed those first families to Toronto last month, I welcomed them as new Canadians and as the future of the Canadian economy. Diversity isn't just sound social policy, diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that enriches the world. We know this in Canada. Frankly, our recent election reminded us all that people can respond to a positive, inclusive vision of society. The result is creativity that enriches Canada and the world. We know this. Frankly, that makes me profoundly optimistic and confident.
My predecessor wanted you to know Canada for its resources. Well I want you to know Canadians for our resourcefulness. I bet that almost all of you have Canadians in leadership positions in your company. Now you might not know this because we don't often shout it from the rooftops – some clichés about Canadians are true – but in fact when you think about it I know that at least half this room has employed Dominic Barton at one point or another.
We have a diverse and outstandingly creative population, great education, and advanced infrastructure. We have social stability, financial stability, and a government willing to invest in the future.
It’s not a coincidence that Canada is always at the top of lists that other countries want to be on. It’s a reflection of our skills and our confidence in the future. Canadians have remarkable confidence. We believe in progress and we’re willing to work very, very hard to achieve it. Our natural resources are important and they will always be the basis of the Canadian economy. But Canadians know that what it takes to grow and prosper isn’t just what’s under our feet, it’s what’s between our ears. Our recent election shows that Canadians understand that confident countries invest in their future.
Today, you could say that the level of confidence in the world is breaking down. Some people say that it’s now impossible to change the face of global inequalities since we’ve come too far to turn back and invest in collective prosperity. Others insist that climate change is a lost cause. They say a catastrophe is now inevitable and that the only way to avoid it is to abandon economic growth. And others are questioning diversity. They say that people from different cultures and people who speak different languages can’t live in harmony, that diversity is synonymous with instability and insecurity, that diversity is dangerous. Well, I absolutely don’t believe that.
We can grow the middle class so that those who study and work hard and save will be rewarded. We can fight climate change without sacrificing growth and prosperity. In fact our global push towards a low carbon economy will produce new companies, new growth, and new prosperity. And, yes, we can embrace diversity and the new ideas that spring from it while simultaneously fostering a shared identity and shared values in safe, stable communities that work.
The one thing certain about the next industrial revolution is, like the three that preceded it, it will bring enormous change. And if you are looking for a country that has the diversity, the resilience, the positivity, and mostly the confidence, that will not just manage this change but take advantage of it, there has never been a better time to look to Canada.