PM Trudeau delivers remarks at the Most Powerful Women International Summit gala in Montréal
What an incredible room to be in. You all represent countries and companies that span the globe, and thank you for being here for the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit, and welcome to Montréal. Yes, I’m in my hometown, so I’m going to be testing some of your high school French throughout, but there is translation available for those of you who need it.
Many of you joined us in another great Canadian city, Toronto, just last month, for the 2018 Fortune Global Forum. I’m glad to see that you were so impressed that you decided to come right back to Canada. Because it does make sense to gather the world’s business leaders here. After all, we have a pretty great investment climate at the moment. In fact, I’d argue that the Canadian advantage for companies and workers is stronger than it’s ever been.
Our economy is performing among the best of G7 countries. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in 40 years. And today, 600,000 more Canadians have a job compared to only two years ago. Exports are at record levels.
And importantly, we’re the only G7 country with preferential access to European, Asia Pacific, and North American markets. Simply put, we’re the only G7 country with a free trade agreement with every other G7 country. So Canada now has preferred market access to two thirds of the global economy.
Needless to say, it’s a great time to be doing business in Canada, whether you’re expanding into new markets, scouting a location for your latest manufacturing plant, or searching for a new corporate HQ.
Now, I’m really looking forward to my discussion with Nina, but before we get into it, I want to briefly tell you about two exciting new policies we’ve recently put forward as a government, policies that will position us for the future, growing our economy, and providing good jobs and stability for our people. I’m talking about putting a price on pollution, and pay equity.
Starting with our planet, maybe you’ve seen the latest UN report. It basically says that we have twelve years to address climate change, or else face devastating consequences. Well, here in Canada, we’ve implemented a whole host of initiatives over the past few years to protect our oceans, phase out coal, invest in public transit, and conserve our national parks. And, as a crucial cornerstone piece of this larger plan, I announced a few weeks ago that we’ll be putting a price on the pollution that causes climate change. The problem we face as a country and really, as a world, is this: It’s free to pollute, and so we have too much pollution.
William Nordhaus has spent his life studying the economic impacts of climate change. He concluded that the best way to reduce emissions is to put a price on pollution and encourage people to pollute less. This approach would also contribute to growing the economy, because businesses would be motivated to innovate, create new technologies and imagine the jobs of the future. And indeed, Mr. Nordhaus recently received the Nobel Prize in economics for his efforts and his work in this field.
In Canada, we know that inaction is no longer an option. Climate change is a huge global threat, but the opportunities are immense for the companies and countries that choose to lead in this new economy. I’ve been known to say, a time or two, that the environment and the economy can, and must, go hand in hand. What’s good for the economy and what’s good for the environment are in this new era very often the same things. For companies that want to reduce their carbon footprint and position themselves as cutting edge economic leaders for this generation and the next, Canada is your natural and enthusiastic partner. Just ask Shell, Petronas, Petro Canada, Petro China, Mitsubishi, and COGAS, who last month announced a $40 billion liquid natural gas project in Canada, the single largest private sector investment in our country’s history.
My friends, showing leadership on climate change is profitable, does create jobs, and is quickly becoming the key to success in this world.
Now, another area that requires serious leadership by the people in this room and by governments around the world, is pay equity. Equal pay for work of equal value. That’s a concept that’s pretty hard to disagree with. You know it and I know it: real action on pay equity is long, long overdue. When I was in Davos for the World Economic Forum last January, I talked about pay equity as a fundamental piece in the economic empowerment of women. And not just because it’s the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. In Canada, greater gender equality in the workforce could add $150 billion to our economy over the next decade. That’s an enormous opportunity that we will not let pass us by. And I’m proud to say that just last week, to take concrete steps to address the gender wage gap, our government introduced historic federal pay equity legislation.
This, coupled with other key investments in things like childcare and parental leave, as well as our recently launched women entrepreneurship strategy, will make a huge difference. Not just for Canadian working women, but for our economic success as well.
Now, inequality in the workforce isn’t new. I’m sure that many of you, over the course of your impressive careers, have had to fight for the pay, the work environment and the recognition that you deserve. You know it now, and you knew it then; having your work undervalued, being underpaid simply because you are a woman is unacceptable. Making real, important change is difficult. It takes courage, and it takes leadership to do big things, but I know that this room is up to lead the challenge. Many of you have already addressed the gender wage gap with your own corporate advocacy and policies. For that, I thank you, and I vow to work with you in the months and years ahead, to get better results for women everywhere.
The Most Powerful Women Summit, organized by Fortune, creates … plays an important role in encouraging progress in this area and to developing a work plan not just for women, but for workplaces and entire communities. Once again, thank you for being in Montréal. I know that many of you have travelled a long way to be here, and we are happy to have you with us today.
Thank you all for coming from such a long distance away, for many of you, to be here in my hometown, in Montréal, tonight. I’m impatient to actually get chatting with Nina, so for now, we’ll pass to the next section. Thank you very much. Thank you.