PM Trudeau delivers remarks at the Canadian Electricity Association Gala in Ottawa
It’s great to be here tonight with so many outstanding members of the Canadian Electricity Association. I know that people travelled from all across Canada to be here tonight. So welcome. And I know a number of you took a very long flight. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s done this. But when I fly at night, I often look down to see where we’re going over a city or a town and note the dots of light from streets and houses and soccer pitches, all connected in these neat little grids in this warm fuzzy glow. It’s funny, but until you’re up in the air you might not realize how these lines of light link us to our friends and neighbours; how electricity connects us as communities and runs through our daily lives. As the Canadian Electricity Association, that’s what you do, you power our lives every day.
And ever since CEA became the national voice for the electricity sector almost 130 years ago, you’ve been building a brighter Canada. It’s not just because you made nearly $70 billion in capital investments this year alone, it’s because Canadians can count on the people in this room to deliver safe, reliable power. Now that we’re more and more reliant on plugging things into sockets, electricity is the lifeblood of our day-to-day lives. And because the people here do such a good job, sometimes we take electricity – okay – always we take electricity for granted, only to notice how much we need it when the power goes out because this is Canada. The great ice storm of 1998, the BC South Coast blackout three years ago, the tornados here in Ottawa and Gatineau just this past September. While the rest of us hunker down with candles and blankets, line workers and technicians get to work. And since extreme weather is becoming increasingly familiar to us all, instead of a rare exception, that work is going to be more important than ever and I now that we can count on you.
The people in this room go above and beyond to help Canadians in need. Just look at the 13 winners of the 2018 CEA Lifesaver Awards. These everyday heroes helped the victims of car and bus crashes and provided first-aid in an emergency. On behalf of all Canadians, thank you.
But, of course that’s not the only way you are all making a difference. You’re also making sure that Canadians can afford to turn on the lights in the evening as their kids do homework, to turn up the heat when their grandparents feel cold, because the reality is that many families are facing rising living costs and wages aren’t always keeping pace. Right from day one our government has been focused on how we can make life better for the middle class and people working hard to join it, no matter whether it’s putting money back into the pockets of families with the Canada Child Benefit, or creating new job opportunities for people by negotiating trade deals that are good for Canadians.
My friends, our government is working with you to ensure that electricity remains affordable for Canadian families. I will speak in more detail about innovation in a few moments, but a big part of that job is to find new ways of managing our natural resources. We’ve started the job, we’re working with industry stakeholders to help people conserve electricity. When people use energy more efficiently, not only can they save money, but they can also help to protect the environment—and everyone comes out of that a winner.
And let’s remember that there’s still lots of work to be done, because there are families, especially in remote, northern and indigenous communities that don’t have access to affordable or reliable electricity. That holds people... that holds communities back. But the good news is that by working together we can do something about it. In fact, we’ve already gotten started. Our government invested in – I used to know this word when I made an announcement – Wataynikaneyap Power’s project to connect the Pikangikum First Nation community and 16 others to Ontario’s power grid. For other rural and remote communities we’re investing $220 million to reduce reliance on diesel fuel and help people use more sustainable, renewable power.
Together we can ensure that everyone sees the benefits of clean, safe electricity, healthier air and less money spent on expensive fuel, not to mention the prosperity that electricity sector jobs can bring a community because affordable, reliable power isn’t the only way that this industry helps families day to day; the Canadian electricity industry employs over 80,000 people. These are well-paying, middle-class jobs that people can rely on. And thanks to the dedication of today’s occupational health and safety award winners, they’re safe jobs too.
So our government is making smart, targeted investments in CEA members to create even more good jobs. Take for example our recent investment in Haligonia Tidal Energy’s project to harness marine renewable energy. It’s not only a first-of-its-kind project. It’ll also create 120 jobs for people in Nova Scotia.
In a rapidly changing economy, people depend on secure, high-paying jobs in the industry. So we have to think about what we can do to protect their future. For example, expanding trade in Canadian electricity—which, by the way, is already generating profits of 2.6 billion dollars—will help to ensure the strength of the industry for years to come. And when we talk about electricity trade, we also have to talk about collaboration among the provinces; I know that Minister Sauvy and Minister Champagne are already monitoring that file closely because it’s an area with enormous potential. Because to help everyone benefit from clean, quality energy that’s produced here in Canada, we need to work all across the country.
Our government is here to help you come up with great ideas, like creating a clean energy corridor that stretches from coast to coast. We are prepared to support your ambitious projects. Projects that will produce results not just today, but for the decades to come.
I know that everyone here is well-equipped to handle a changing future. It’s in the very nature of your work. Ever since inventors first harnessed the power of electricity, people have known that it’s the way of the future. In the 1800s they were thinking about electric light bulbs. In 2018 we’re thinking about electric cars. You’re powering our tomorrow, a future where Canada is a leader in clean tech and innovation and you’re already well on your way. The Canadian electricity sector, with low carbon emission nuclear generation and huge hydroelectric producers, like Hydro Quebec and BC Hydro, is one of the cleanest in the world and that’s something you can all be very proud of.
But, better is always possible and this industry is in a strong position to continue to lead. Look no further than tonight’s winners of the Sustainable Electricity Awards and Nalcor Energy awarded the sustainable electricity designation. Our government is in your corner as you keep Canada ahead of the curve with your million watt ideas. We’re investing $2.3 billion to support clean technology and drive innovation in everything from wind and tidal power, to solar panels.
My dear friends, the clean tech sector has an immense potential. Our government supports an economy focused on clean growth that takes the measures to make sure that pollution is no longer free in our country. And once again, you are all leaders in that domain. More than 80% of Canada’s electricity is produced without carbon emissions. So you’re on the right path when we talk about reduction of emissions. It’s a great example to follow for other sectors that want, as you are, to innovate with concrete measures to counter climate change. And of course, there’s not much point in investing in world-class clean energy generation if we don’t have the transmission and distribution infrastructure to match. It’s something that leaders here at CEA talk about a lot. That’s why we’re supporting CEA members directly. Last month we announced almost $5 million in funding for SaskPower to support their distribution modernization program. In August we also announced an investment of $1.4 million in a smart grid project by ENMAX Power to send extra renewable energy back into Calgary’s grid for other people to use. These are just two examples of the projects that we’re proud to support, projects that ensure that reliable, affordable power comes along with a promise of a healthy future for our kids and grandkids.
So thank you for your commitment to energizing our communities for today and propelling us into an even brighter future. By working together we can keep powering Canada and keep fuelling those bright lights seen from your redeye flights. Together we can make sure that the next generation of astronauts will look down at Earth from space and see our world still tied together by those glorious lines of light.
My friends, we all have the power to make that happen.