Address by Minister Fast to Canadian Aerospace Summit

December 6, 2012 – Ottawa, Ontario

Check Against Delivery

Let me begin by commending the Aerospace Industry Association of Canada [AIAC] for its vision and leadership in bringing Canada’s most distinguished industry players together under one roof. It’s a real pleasure to be here today.

Canada’s world-class aerospace sector is an international success story that symbolizes Canadian excellence. Supporting tens of thousands of jobs for hard-working Canadians across our country, your industry contributes billions of dollars to the Canadian economy.

For over a hundred years, Canadians have been challenging the limits of our earth-bound existence, pressing ever further into the sky and beyond.

It was a frosty February morning in 1909 when Douglas McCurdy of Nova Scotia completed the first successful powered flight in Canada—indeed, in the British Empire.

Alexander Graham Bell proudly proclaimed the news to the Associated Press and to the Times of London, reporting in a telegram that McCurdy flew a distance of about one-half mile at an elevation of about thirty feet above the ice on Baddeck Bay, in an aeroplane of his own design named the Silver Dart.

From there, things really took off, if you’ll forgive me the pun.

Aviation soon became vital to Canadian existence, in a geographically vast nation with an often impassable landscape. It linked remote Canadian communities to each other and figuratively shrank the size of our vast nation. It has remained so to this very day.

Our government is committed to ensuring that this critical industry benefits from new markets that we’re opening as part of the most ambitious trade expansion plan in our nation’s history. Just as the early Canadian pioneers used aviation to establish the links that allowed the far-flung regions of our country to survive and prosper, so, too, today we are using strategic and ambitious trade policies to link our Canadian economy to the most vibrant markets in the world.

As many of you know, Canada’s aerospace industry is the fifth-largest in the world. And according to AIAC statistics, it employs over 66,000 Canadians and generates over $22 billion per year.

It is Canada’s largest exporter of leading-edge technology—ranked third worldwide in civil aircraft production.

An impressive legacy, to be sure.

But Canadians understand and believe that, in a changing and unpredictable global economic environment, success can and must be improved upon. Building upon success has become an imperative if we are to remain competitive in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

That is why my colleague, [the Honourable] Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), launched the aerospace and space review in February of this year.

As part of the government’s Economic Action Plan, this comprehensive review examined how we can leverage and maximize the impact of our investments in these sectors to sustain Canada’s leadership position.

The Honourable David Emerson, who headed up the review, presented his findings to the government last week. As Minister Paradis mentioned to you yesterday, we are now carefully reviewing the report’s recommendations with an eye to defining the way forward.

The review explored how government, industry and other key stakeholders can address the very real challenges facing our aerospace and space sectors, such as innovation, market access, skills development, supplier development and procurement.

These are all areas that require not the attention, efforts and abilities of a single player but the resources and dedication of the private sector, universities, think tanks and the entire spectrum of government, working together.

Countries that have traditionally been leaders in aerospace are now seeing new competition from all over the globe as emerging economies continue to reshape the competitive landscape in which you do business.

And Canadian aerospace firms are being pressed into adapting to these rapidly changing market conditions.

Commissioning this review is just one of the steps our government has taken as we prepare to refresh our Global Commerce Strategy for Canada’s long-term prosperity.

First launched in 2007, the Global Commerce Strategy identified priority markets around the world where opportunities for Canadian businesses had the greatest potential for growth and success.

This has led to five years of Canadian leadership on the world stage, fighting the scourge of protectionism and supporting freer and more open trade as a critical driver of job creation and economic growth both at home and abroad.

But the world has changed since we launched the first phase of our strategy five years ago. We now live in a much more fragile global economy, one in which some of the world’s most dominant economies have suffered significant setbacks and have been forced to retrench. It is within that precarious context that we must take care to properly position Canada to best leverage our unique strengths.

Our updated strategy will align Canada’s trade and investment objectives with exciting, high-growth markets and sectors around the world.

Our priority is to focus our efforts and utilize government resources in the best possible ways to match Canadian needs with the realities our businesses face in the global marketplace.

Again, our objective is to generate jobs, economic growth and prosperity for Canadians.

To that end, we have held cross-country consultations with Canada’s business and industry leaders, including those in the critical small-business sector, to hear their views on what a refreshed Global Commerce Strategy should look like.

What they have told us has helped shape this next phase of our pro-trade plan to open new markets around the world to our exporters.

First, we’re looking to ensure Canadian businesses have access to priority markets around the world.

This effort includes pursuing deeper ties with the world’s largest, most dynamic and fastest-growing economies. Trade has long been a powerful engine of Canada’s economy, and it is even more so in these globally challenging economic times.

Second, we know we have to re-energize the support services that help Canadian business take advantage of opportunities abroad. I’d like to focus on this second point a few minutes, because it holds particular relevance for the aerospace sector.

To ensure our world-class aerospace industry maintains and expands its international market share, our trade department is working hard to put into place the right conditions for success. As many of you know and have experienced, we have a team dedicated to helping Canadian aerospace and space companies compete globally.

I have led several aerospace-focused trade missions to countries such as China and Russia to help bring Canadian industry to these key markets and have very much appreciated the advice and collaboration your association has provided.

What’s more, our team of trade commissioners—I like to call them “Canada’s best-kept secret”—are on the ground all over the world to provide advice to help you save both time and money, and improve your prospects of success as you penetrate new markets.

Take True North Avionics, for example. Thanks in no small part to introductions made at the Farnborough Airshow this year, this Ottawa-based firm has been successful in securing purchase orders from Malaysia’s Caterham Jet to supply its new fleet of aircraft with True North’s Airborne Cabin Communications equipment.

And then there’s Viking Air of Sidney, B.C., which opened negotiations with four new customers during our recent trade mission to Asia and credits Canadian trade commissioners with helping to introduce Viking to its new customers.

And Eurolot, a Polish airline, announced an order of up to 20 Bombardier Q400 NextGen aircraft on March 9, 2012. This is yet another example of a fruitful collaboration between the Trade Commissioner Service and Bombardier that resulted in a sale.

Let me assure you, with a refreshed Global Commerce Strategy in place soon, more resources will be aligned for sector-specific promotion, especially in the high-growth emerging markets where many of us are focusing our attention.

Moving on, a third focus under consideration is ensuring that businesses get the capital they need to become more active around the world.

Joining forces with partners like Export Development Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation, we want to enhance the ability of Canadian aerospace businesses to access the capital they require to expand their operations and move from being promising players to global competitors.

The fourth focus we’re looking at is ensuring that our businesses have access to the technologies they need.

As we finalize the strategy, we want to bring together businesses, academics, researchers and all levels of government to commercialize technologies as rapidly as possible and bring them to the global marketplace.

And, finally, the fifth focus is all about people—ensuring that our businesses have access to the very best and brightest talent and brainpower the world has to offer.

Be assured that I’m already working with the education sector on a revised international education strategy to attract top talent to Canadian schools and companies.

Ladies and gentlemen, once updated, Canada’s Global Commerce Strategy will be better suited than ever to delivering the most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canadian history.

And rest assured that our government is doing its part to ensure that our world-class aerospace sector remains just that: world-class.

We know that Canada’s highly competitive aerospace and space industries are major contributors to our economy. We also know that our aerospace businesses, investors and innovators can compete with the very best that the world has to offer and win.

Our pursuit of excellence and preferential access to the world’s most dynamic markets must be relentless, precisely because it will give Canadians the necessary edge to thrive and prosper in a world economy that is fiercely competitive.

Friends, this thing we call “trade” is an amazing adventure. It is not for the faint of heart or for the naysayer. Nor is it for those who cower in the face of challenges.

Rather, trade is for visionaries, champions—like you—who seize the moment when opportunity comes calling.

On behalf of our federal government, I look forward to partnering with you and joining you on that great adventure.

Thank you.