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Speech at 2009 ACE National Exposition

Good afternoon. Bon après-midi.

 

Thank you very much for your kind welcome. It is a real pleasure to be here with you today at the 2009 ACE National Expositions, Celebration of Excellence.

 

I am proud to be a part of this event.  ACE’s programs, such as the Students in Free Enterprise and Student Entrepreneur programs, give young Canadians an incredible opportunity to develop their talents, to learn to lead and to succeed.  And, in so doing, the students themselves create economic opportunity in their communities, have the chance to showcase their business and benefit from valuable mentorship.

 

You know, particularly in these challenging economic times, it is inspiring to see the experience-based programming being delivered by ACE and the success of the students who take part -- as you say, “igniting young Canadians to create brighter futures for themselves and their communities.”

 

I’m going to caption my remarks today by taking a phrase from a great 20th century businesswoman – who said, “Eliminate the traditional and cling to the essential.”  It’s worth repeating, “Eliminate the traditional and cling to the essential.”

 

The economy of yesterday is gone. The way forward is through new innovations and NEW IDEAS from entrepreneurs like you.  Entrepreneurs that will help build the road to the future. My purpose today is to let you know your federal government is here to help you PAVE the way to that future. Let me reiterate - the most vital competitive weapon Canada has is not lower prices or oil wealth, but NEW IDEAS.

 

 

With that in mind - Let me tell how the federal government is helping to pave the way in support of entrepreneurs and small businesses in Canada and create a brighter future for when you’re ready to start your own business.

First we want to ensure that government does not get in the way, that we don’t choke new innovations with endless forms and regulations, or make business uncompetitive with high taxes.  Before the sub-prime crisis, businesses were telling us their biggest concerns were taxes, red tape and succession planning. Right now, their greatest concern is access to credit. We are taking steps to ensure credit is available for start-ups and small businesses.

 

Canada’s Economic Action Plan includes specific initiatives to help small and medium-sized enterprises move forward and grow in the short-term.  These measures, such as a reduced tax burden and incentives to modernize businesses, assist SMEs through this period of economic uncertainty. In the long-term, they help make Canada more innovative and competitive on the world stage.

 

Second, we want to create an entrepreneurial culture in Canada, one that has the courage, independence, and determination not just to dream, but also to take action. We want entrepreneurs to be celebrated and respected; we want to hold them up great Canadians.

 

Let me tell you that when I read about last year’s national ACE winners, Joseph Moncada in the Student Entrepreneur Competition, and Memorial University’s team, who won the Free Enterprise Championship, I was amazed at the business acumen, determination and dedication of these young people.  Joseph won for his Sweet Tooth Candy Emporium, which employs over 25 people and is now franchised, with three locations!  Memorial’s team ran 17 community projects in Newfoundland and Labrador, contributing to local economic development.  One such project started a pottery studio that employed eight people.  Wow!

Brian Scudamore is another individual that needs to be celebrated.  He started his company in 1989 straight out of high school with $700 and a beat-up old pick-up truck. Today his company has 95 franchise partners across North America with a true national presence — the company is in 47 of North America's top 50 cities.  The company? “1-800-GOT-JUNK.”  Brian was a risk-taker, but firm in his vision of creating the 'FedEx' of junk removal.  Brian left University to become a fulltime JUNKMAN!  And his father, a liver transplant surgeon, was not impressed to say the least.  Brian says, "He’s onside now."

 

Could I have a show of hands of how many people here are familiar with the names of Scott Abbott or Chris Haney? The names may not ring a bell – but what they invented might.   How many are familiar with the board game “Trivial Pursuit?”   Interestingly the first copies of the game were sold at a loss, the manufacturing costs came to seventy-five dollars per game and the game was sold to retailers for fifteen – now there’s a good business practice for you.  However, these two Canadian entrepreneurs were determined and they persisted, spending countless hours perfecting and marketing their invention. Their years of effort paid off - to date over 88 million Trivial Pursuit games had been sold worldwide.  Last year, Hasbro, the makers of Monopoly and Scrabble bought the rights for $80 million dollars. – not bad.

In Canada we tend to support "inventories of discovery" without fostering the entrepreneurs that make those discoveries real.  This needs to change – AND YOUR GOVERNMENT IS PAVING THE WAY TO HELP MAKE THAT HAPPEN.

And third, we want to support the entire chain of innovation – from education, to research, from an entrepreneurial culture to financing, start-ups, and growth.

Small businesses innovate, create jobs and generate wealth in every region across the country.  To help them succeed, the government has taken action to help free up credit for businesses. Budget 2009 increased the Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC’s) capital limit from $1.5 billion to $3 billion in order to expand the amount of financing available to small and medium-sized businesses. What does this mean for you future entrepreneurs? It means that you will have a strong and effective capitol base to work from.  It means that in the Global economy, you’ll have the support to compete against the whole world.

 

We also increased the maximum eligible loan amount under the Canada Small Business Financing Program, providing some $300 million in additional financing. This helps those starting out or looking to expand their business to access the credit they need.

Funding to support small business also includes continued support for the Canada Business Network, a business information service that provides access to reliable, up-to-date information essential for start-ups or those looking to expand their business. 

We want to ensure Canada has the best-trained and most flexible workforce in the world.  We need to help retain a competitive edge in the global economy. The Canada Skills and Transition Strategy provides a major financial injection of $8.3 billion in a range of initiatives to both help Canadians weather today’s economic storm, and provide them with the necessary training to prosper in tomorrow’s economy.

We are telling the world how great Canada is, how much better our economy is doing, so they should come here to invest. It is up to you to give them something to invest in.

But then, I don’t have to tell this crowd about impressive young entrepreneurs.  Here today, you are showcasing your ideas and achievements as young business owners and entrepreneurs – impressive in scope, creativity and level of success.  

 

A report from the Ontario Government released early this year by the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto states that our economy is in the midst of a transformation -- to an economy in which creativity, skills and knowledge will become our most important resources.  You exemplify this transformation. 

 

Now more than ever, Canada needs dynamic and forward looking young business leaders just like you, who, through your entrepreneurial spirit, will lead the way to the future, developing new products and services, and new ways of thinking. 

 

A prominent theorist of the Austrian School of Economics, Joseph Schumpeter, defined the entrepreneur as an innovator, and he popularized the use of the phrase “creative destruction” to describe the role of entrepreneurs in changing business norms.  Likewise, one 20th century business woman, Alice Foote MacDougall, speaking on succeeding as an entrepreneur was quoted as saying, “One must eliminate the traditional and cling to the essential”.

 

I think they were both saying, shake things up, use your talents and ideas, champion change for the better.  Some of you here at this conference just might be the next big thing in Canadian business.  In fact, I have no doubt.

 

While our country continues to be in a position of relative stability, Canada is no doubt affected by the global economic downturn.  But friends, the sky has not fallen. 92% of the workforce is employed. Canada has the world’s soundest banking system according to the World Economic Forum. And generally, Canadians carry a lot smaller debt load.

 

Canada will be one of the first countries to emerge from the global downturn. It will give us a great advantage if we are ready to expand as the economy recovers. Our business sector needs to be ready with new ideas, skilled workers, and talented business leaders – the kind of young people ACE and its programs are helping to build.  

 

I celebrate and congratulate the achievements being recognized here today, of you, Canada’s future leaders and entrepreneurs. My challenge to you is to “eliminate the traditional and cling to the essential.”  By doing so you will succeed.

What does this all mean for you the future “movers and shakers” in Canada?  Most importantly, it means that we’re here to help you take your ideas, and make them real. You are our future!

 

 

Thank you. Merci.