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Speech By Marc Lortie, Ambassador of Canada To France, to the Insitut France-Amériques in partnership with the France-Canada Chamber of Commerce

Canada: Northern Star

Check Against Delivery

Contemporary Issues for a Northern Superpower


2008: The outset of a great year for us

President of the Institut France-Amériques,
President of the Institut France-Canada,
President of the France-Canada Chamber of Commerce,
Madam Member,
Your Excellencies,
My fellow Canadians,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,

After an absence of nearly 15 years, I am exceedingly happy to be back in what Parisians describe, with perfect objectivity, as the world’s most beautiful city. Still, with equally perfect objectivity, I suggest that it is Quebec City that will be in all our hearts in 2008!

I wish to tell you how pleased I am to be speaking to you in this prestigious institution dedicated to France and the Americas, whose tremendous contribution to the strengthening of transatlantic ties is familiar to us all.

Today, I would like to talk about the prospects for this great year of 2008, and to tell you that, all in all, the news from Canada is good. I shall begin with a word about the economic situation, continue with an exploration of the challenges in the Far North—a strategic region for Canada—and conclude with some thoughts about Europe.

First, I would like to begin my speech by mentioning two major current topics as 2008 begins to unfold, two events that all of you, as Canada watchers, are undoubtedly following closely.

The first is the submission yesterday to our government of the report by the commission led by John Manley, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, on Canada’s commitment in Afghanistan and its role in the years ahead. This has been by far our largest military deployment and development mission: since 2001, 18,000 Canadians have served in Afghanistan, and 2,700 are now stationed there, in Kabul and especially in Kandahar where world peace and stability face a major challenge.

As you know, the cost of our commitment in Afghanistan is particularly high. For the first time since the Korean War, the blood of Canadian soldiers has flowed. We have lost 77 soldiers and one diplomat. We are nevertheless continuing our work in that country to ensure security, side by side with our allies, and to assist the Afghan government in rebuilding democracy, the economy and a viable state. To that end, we have made Afghanistan the primary beneficiary of Canadian development aid—$1.2 billion up to 2011—in order to improve the access of its people to health care, childhood education—for girls, especially—and microcredit.

The report submitted to the government yesterday recommends a continuation of our engagement after 2009. The terms of this engagement, however, will be determined in the days and weeks to come, and will feed into much debate across our nation before a vote in Parliament.

The second main event of the beginning of this year is the reopening of Parliament, scheduled for Monday. It is two years almost to the day since the present House of Commons was elected, leading to the formation of Stephen Harper’s minority government. Will the government last through a third year? That is what we shall see as the new session proceeds.

Aside from these current events, we know that 2008 will be a great year: a great year for Canada, and a great year for the Canada-France relationship. Above and beyond everything else, 2008 marks Quebec City’s birthday, as it celebrates its 400th anniversary.

With the foundation of Quebec City, our country celebrates this year its birth in French four centuries ago. Our country is recalling the French fact in Canada, and celebrating its unique diversity. In that sense, this 400th anniversary is a birthday for all Canadians.

The founding of Quebec City? The founding of the Province of Quebec? The founding of Canada? What is it that we are celebrating in 2008? This year, the people of Quebec and other Canadians are celebrating one and the same thing: an immense resource that is part of their identity and their heritage, namely la francophonie. A francophony our country holds so dear. A francophony that we love to defend and proclaim, not least through the medium of the TV5 we enjoy so much—yes, Canadians watch it too! La Francophonie—the international community—is one of the pillars of Canadian foreign policy, and we shall be particularly proud to celebrate that heritage, that wonderful culture, with all our partners within the international Francophonie at the Quebec City Summit in mid-October, to be attended by 68 heads of state and heads of government.

At the behest of the President of France, whose friendship for Canada and personal attachment are well known, France is strongly committed to this 400th anniversary. We are especially honoured that so much energy has been devoted to gracing Quebec City with magnificent projects that will illuminate this very special season. We are most grateful to Jean-Pierre Raffarin, whose energy and imagination have made these great things possible. We are also touched by the initiative shown by regions of France that have demonstrated the desire to be part of the 2008 celebrations in Quebec City by coordinating an ambitious program of events within their own borders.

The year 2008 will indisputably be an outstanding year for the Canada-France relationship. It will be marked by an official visit to Paris and La Rochelle by our head of state, the Governor General, in May. Prime Minister François Fillon will be visiting Canada this summer. The President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, will be in Canada to attend the La Francophonie Summit and the Canada-European Union Summit in mid-October.

Canada plans to take the opportunity presented by this special year to strengthen its bilateral relations with France, as well as its relations with the European Union, which France will chair beginning in July.

Canada has much to offer France. France, a nation which has provided innumerable opportunities for us to work on projects that we have been most happy to share with you. France, with which we share more than a country-to-country relationship: more a relationship between friends. To France, indeed to Europe, Canada proposes to be a stable, reliable and ambitious partner, one that is also innovative, modern and bold. A partner whose prospects are as limitless as the land that offers new, distinctively Northern, horizons. A partner that looks steadily south, west and east, but whose gaze is now riveted also on the North.

Part 1

Canada’s Robust Economy

Ladies and gentlemen,

Like those of the other G8 countries, Canada’s economy approaches the early days of 2008 with caution. What impact will the subprime crisis have on world growth? Is there a risk that the United States, to whose economy our own is closely connected, will go into recession? What will be the impact of the kind of turmoil we saw in the financial markets in Europe and in Canada on Monday and to a lower extend in the United States yesterday?

If the Toronto Stock Exchange closed with a 4% gain yesterday, there is no doubt that a period of uncertainty has begun. But Canada remains confident because its economy rests on a solid foundation. As a partner for France, and for Europe, that is what we offer above all else: a strong economy and the Rule of Law.

For our economic partners, Canada’s primary attraction is its geographical location in the Americas. Our country’s membership in the world’s largest free-trade area, NAFTA, provides access to a market with 434 million consumers, and a combined GDP of over 15 trillion US dollars. Fourteen years after the coming into force of NAFTA, the balance sheet is undeniably positive: NAFTA has been an extraordinary engine of growth and employment. Open to Europe and to Asia, our economy is linked more than ever to that of the United States, and 83 percent of our trade is with that country.

The Americas are blessed with an entrepreneurial culture that encourages creativity, innovation and risk-taking. It is a world in which everything is possible, and the “social elevator” operates for those who take charge of their own fate. Setting up a corporation in Canada takes just a few minutes online.

The beginning of the 21st century augurs well for Canadians, since their country enjoys excellent economic health. It is the only G8 country with a balanced budget. As we have every year since we returned to a balanced budget in 1997, we recorded another budget surplus in 2007, and this enables us to reduce the federal debt and ease the tax burden year after year.

In 2007, sound management of public funds enabled the federal government to reduce our debt by $10 billion, and $3 billion is expected to be allocated to debt repayment in each upcoming fiscal year. The goal is clear: to reduce the debt to less than 25 percent of GDP by 2011 2012, and eliminate it completely by 2020.

This financial good health was accompanied by GDP growth of 2.5 percent in 2007. It is true that every country puts together its own recipe for growth—Mr. Attali presented his to the President of France this morning. For us, it is domestic demand that has driven growth since 2001, and it should be maintained in 2008 and again in 2009—2.7 percent, according to the latest estimates. The fact is that only once before in its history has Canada experienced such a protracted period of growth.

This growth benefits everyone. Above all, it promotes employment, which has grown continuously over the last 14 years. At 5.9 percent, unemployment is at its lowest level in 33 years. Employment is growing steadily everywhere in Canada—590,000 jobs created in two years—and with remarkable vigour in British Columbia, the Prairies and Quebec.

This excellent economic strength enables the Government of Canada to continue reducing the tax burden. The federal tax on corporations will be reduced to 15 percent in 2012, coming close to our objective of a combined federal-provincial tax rate of 25 percent. The federal business tax rate dropped to 11 percent this year, and our value-added tax, the GST, was reduced from 6 percent to 5 percent on January 1, giving us one of the most competitive tax environments of any OECD country. In addition to debt repayment, our rediscovered fiscal sovereignty enables Canada to invest in health and education programs, and in our public pension system, one of the few in the world that is financially viable: in actuarial terms, the system’s funding is assured for the next 75 years.

Our economic, financial, fiscal and social accomplishments are not fortuitous. There is universal recognition that they are largely the result of the rigorous government reforms undertaken in the early 1990s.

Dear friends,

Here in France, Canada is seen above all as a resource economy. Canada has traditionally been considered a great power in terms of natural resources. Although my country has of course worked long and hard on the successful transformation of its economy, and my fellow countrymen have striven to dispel the “lumberjack” image, the fact remains that now more than ever, Canada regards its natural resources as its main strategic asset in economic terms.

It is in fact wonderfully rich in fossil and mineral resources. So much so that Prime Minister Harper has felt able to describe Canada as an emerging energy superpower, and an international mining giant.

With good reason! We are the fifth-largest energy producer on the planet. After Saudi Arabia, we have the world’s largest oil reserves. We are the world’s third-largest producer of natural gas, and its second-largest producer of hydroelectric power. We are also the world’s main supplier of uranium. You may not know this, but 60 percent of the uranium used in France comes from Canada.

Our chief asset, however, is our continuing assertion of our status as an energy superpower in a world where the main fossil and mineral resources are found in regions of fragile stability, and to be doing so as a stable democracy, with free and open markets, and as a country that is socially responsible and reliable. A country that in the years ahead will be careful to invest its petrodollars in forward-looking projects that are valid in human and environmental terms, following the example of Alberta, where our tar sands are located, and which is considering the construction of the world’s biggest cancer research centre.

In Canada, it is in the Far North that these energy resources are found in abundance, along with diamonds, uranium, lead, zinc and copper. We stand today at a historic turning point, because the Far North is opening up as never before. The Arctic seas are becoming increasingly navigable, opening up new routes to new horizons. More than ever a Northern country, Canada plans to grow to maturity as a Northern power.

Part 2

Canada: North as far as you can go

Ladies and gentlemen,

Easier access to the natural resources of the Far North has awakened the public’s interest in the Arctic. Since the summer, we have heard much talk about the Far North, but what does that expression really mean?

Canada’s Arctic refers to that part of the country north of latitude 60. It represents 40 percent of our surface area, but only 0.35 percent of our population, or about 112,000 people. While in our collective culture, we all share images of vast snow-white spaces, Canada’s Far North in fact exhibits geographical and human characteristics that are quite different.

In the west, the Yukon is a territory of sparsely forested mountains, populated by 30,000 people, a quarter of whom are of Amerindian origin. At the centre, the Northwest Territories offer a landscape of boreal forest and a population of 40,000, half of whom are Amerindian. In the east, the part that is best known in France, lies Nunavut, a land of windswept tundra that is home to 25,000 Inuit who make up 85 percent of its population.

The Arctic is an intrinsic component of Canada, holding our third ocean shoreline. Just as, 140 years ago, our youthful confederation had to secure its west coast, so Canada now turns its eyes to its northern frontier.

As our Prime Minister has quite rightly pointed out, the principle of sovereignty is that you use it or you lose it. Canadians have elected to use it.

Canada’s Arctic frontier is indisputable. It extends from the northern tip of Labrador, running up the eastern shore of Ellesmere Island to Alert. It then runs around the western perimeter of the Queen Elizabeth Islands to reach the Beaufort Sea. From there, it runs along the shores of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon to the Canada-US border in Alaska. Along the border, Canada’s jurisdiction extends 200 nautical miles out into the adjacent waters. No less, and no more.

Last summer, the Government of Canada announced significant measures to enable our country to exercise its sovereignty:

  • the construction and deployment of 6 to 8 deep-sea patrol vessels capable of cruising the Northwest Passage year-round;
  • the construction at Nanisivik of the first deep-water port in Canada’s Far North;
  • an increase to 5,000 in the complement of the Arctic Rangers under Canadian command;
  • the launching of long-range pilotless observation drones to patrol the region constantly; and,
  • the Polar Epsilon Project for satellite surveillance of Canada’s Arctic.

Exercising our sovereignty and protecting our territory also means ensuring the preservation of its unique ecosystems and the centuries-old traditions of its peoples. It means developing the full potential of the Far North, and creating the conditions in which it can participate in Canada’s economic and social development.

This is the whole purpose behind the Government of Canada’s commitment to the International Polar Year. With an investment of $150 million, Canada is giving priority to improving our knowledge of the North by supporting a program that will deploy 1,250 researchers to 67 communities and research locations.

Our goal is to ensure the region’s sustainability and to protect it for the peoples that live there: First Nations, Métis and Inuit. We seek to understand:

  • how the ecosystems of the tundra are adapting to climate change;
  • how the caribou, reindeer, seal and bear populations are responding to the impact of these changes;
  • and how oil and gas exploitation affects the health, development and traditional subsistence activities of the peoples of the North.

The Government of Canada’s commitment matches our ambition, as does the scale of our projects. I am thinking of our icebreaker, the Amundsen, which is capable of 15-month cruises with researchers aboard; I am thinking, too, of the first complete mapping of the Canadian Arctic Ocean seabed, now under way; and the construction of the first international research centre in Canada’s Far North.

Sovereignty, development, scientific activities: the Far North is opening up to all of these. In addition, it provides us with concrete indications of the impact of global warming on our planet. The Kyoto Protocol was signed 10 years ago, the prelude to a marathon of worldwide reductions in greenhouse gases. Canada signed it and ratified it under the previous government. There have been lengthy delays, and we realize it is no longer realistic to believe those targets will be achieved. Canada, however, is a pragmatic and responsible country.

This is why our government has presented its most ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gases. It calls for a 20 percent reduction in industrial emissions by 2020, and a 60 percent to 70 percent reduction by 2050. It also calls for cutting our atmospheric pollution in half by 2015.

As you can see, the Far North is a major issue for Canada, in geostrategic, climatic, human, economic and development terms.

The Canada of the 21st century is a country in excellent economic health, an emerging energy superpower, and a country with vast northern horizons. And yet, remarkable though Canada’s promise may be, Canadians have even greater things in mind.

The Canadian people have expressed above all their unshakable determination to build a generous society. As a northern country with dazzling prospects, Canada is the Northern Star, a rising star that will guide those bent on building and living in a modern society that is humanist, bold and innovative.

Part 3

Canada, Northern Star

Dear friends,

The most beautiful starry dreams, as we know, are dreamed by researchers: gigadreams and nanopassions which we invite them to experience in Canada. In the 21st century, Canada’s own dream is to be a land of scientific excellence.

Our country has a long tradition of successful scientific research. From the discovery of insulin to the development by Research in Motion of the Blackberry—on which, I have no doubt, half the people in this room are hooked—Canada has shown the world its ability to innovate in ways that bring profound change to people’s lives.

In 10 years, Canada has built a solid foundation as a player on the international research scene. Canada ranks first among the G8 countries in terms of the number of research papers published per capita, and Canada also has the G8’s highest proportion of postsecondary graduates.

Yet our plans for the 21st century are bigger and more ambitious: world-class scientific and technological excellence. To achieve that goal, Canada is making it a priority to promote entrepreneurial advantage and develop technology transfer by creating the kind of progressive, competitive business environment that encourages investment in R&D.

Our country seeks to focus its research effort on four areas in which Canada’s strength lies: the environment; natural resources and energy; health and life sciences; and information and communications technologies.

Building a country characterized by scientific excellence means appealing to skilled people with an attractive tax environment, an improved immigration system and employment assistance for foreign workers, and excellence in our university research. We want a country that is open to the world, and plugged into ideas, talents and technologies.

The Northern Star serves also as a beacon to those who dream of a better future, and welcomes those who yearn to build a better life. Every year, Canada welcomes some 250,000 newcomers. For them, Canada represents hope for the future. Of the 33 million people who live in Canada, 6 million were born abroad. This proportion—roughly 20 percent—is at its highest level in 75 years. Canada’s largest city, Toronto, offers a wonderful example of multiculturalism, where 150 languages are in daily use and half the population was born outside Canada.

The Northern Star also welcomes French-speaking immigrants, both in Quebec and in the other provinces, which no longer hesitate to look to France for potential immigrants, given the enrichment they bring to the linguistic and cultural heritage we are celebrating this year.

Lastly, the Northern Star promotes exchanges between our young people and those of France, particularly through the mobility agreements under which this year the number of visas issued will swell from 7,000 to 9,500.

Canadians continue to believe that without other people, there is no future. They know that being Canadian means being open to the world, and to all mankind. It means striving for a community of destiny in a diversity of identities, cultures and languages. Being Canadian means shaping a country to match your dreams.


Canada: A strong, responsible and reliable partner

Dear friends,

Canada is a modern, vigorous and competitive country. A country whose prosperity rests on abundant resources, a strongly based economy and a resolve to be open to the world. A country that is discovering new horizons. A country that is ambitious, reliable and responsible.

Canada stands at a crossroads. Ready access to its fossil and mineral resources offers an immense promise of prosperity. More than ever, Canada will have the means to offer its citizens a unique social model, and to continue to serve as a social laboratory, which has made it popular in France and other countries.

France is a key partner for such a promising country. A preferred partner whose values it shares, along with a special way of looking at the world, and an attachment to multilateralism. A country with which it enjoys exchanging its best recipes for success. A country with which we share a strong relationship, intensive cooperation, and a special trust born of friendship, respect and admiration.

Our two countries are eager to pursue that relationship, and intensify their trade and investment. Our cooperation must continue in all areas, must be constantly receptive to new ideas and ready to embrace science and technology.

Our relationship can also be part of a wider, more European dimension.

In 2007, together with the European Commission, we embarked on a broad study to define the parameters of possible negotiations to achieve balanced economic integration between Canada and France, and between Canada and the European Union.

We look forward to exploring this further at the forthcoming Canada-European Union Summit we will be hosting in the fall.

Canada is counting on France. We need its leadership within the European Union, which it will be chairing in the second half of the year, to ensure the success of the ambitious plans we have for our relationship with Europe. That richly promising relationship is vital to ensuring our prosperity and building our future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wanted to share with you an overview of the upcoming events for 2008:

  • A Francophonie Summit to which Canada intends to give a renewed energy;
  • A Canada-EU Summit that will, under France’s leadership, launch a comprehensive negotiation between Canada and the EU;
  • Prime Minister Fillon’s first visit to Canada from July 2nd to 4th ;
  • President Sarkzoy’s first visit to Canada from October 17th to 19th;
  • And in near future, our Governor General’s visit to France in May.

For the Canada-France relationship, 2008 will be a great year. A year in which I wish all of you great happiness … and lots of Canada!

Thank you.


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