Since its founding, Canada has always stood proudly among the world’s leading nations as a democracy and an advanced economy, and as a country that welcomes people from around the world – whether as students or as members of our diverse, cosmopolitan society.
Canada has an expansive geography and abundant natural resources. Yet Canada has been shy about taking its place among the world’s leading economies when it comes to celebrating our technology and innovation.
I sometimes wonder if that has something to do with our national reputation for being too polite.
Today, when I look at all of you – an amazing group of graduates – I can’t help but think that your passion, skills and education are coming to fruition at a time when two historic economic and technological revolutions are changing the world.
I’m talking about the energy revolution and the fourth industrial revolution.
As the world population and global economy continue to grow, we need to find new, more sustainable sources of power.
We need to raise the standard of living for more of the world’s people, without consuming the earth.
Technology is playing a starring role in this energy revolution as the world battles climate change and moves toward an energy mix that makes greater use of clean, renewable sources of electricity, like hydropower, wind, and solar.
But Canada is a good example of the technology challenges the world faces in making the energy transition. As you know, fossil fuels are an important part of the Canadian economy – whether from oil, natural gas, oil sands or shale-oil extraction.
The energy demands of Canada and the rest of the world are far too great for us to completely abandon fossil fuels in the near term. But meanwhile, we need engineers and computer scientists to continue inventing ways to make the energy derived from oil and gas much cleaner, and over time ensure that more of the world’s energy comes from renewable sources.
The fourth industrial revolution, meanwhile, is about using digital technologies, artificial intelligence and industrial automation to make our factories, cities and transportation systems all work better, in ways that are energy efficient and environmentally responsible.
If the energy revolution is about providing the electricity the world needs to keep growing, the fourth industrial revolution is about putting that energy – that electricity – to smart, efficient, practical use.
It’s about giving people better lives. It’s about enabling humans to do more fulfilling work and pursue more meaningful careers, and hopefully enjoy more leisure time. In other words, it’s about people, like all of you here today, delivering on those ambitions.
My message to you is: don’t merely join the energy and fourth industrial revolutions, and don’t be shy. Grab the bull by the horns and lead these revolutions.
We’re counting on you, as global citizens, to help us make the world a better place.