Why Canada must say ‘yes’ to big ideas

Date: March 3, 2020

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Alberta – and this city – are profoundly important to me both personally and professionally. I was born and raised in Calgary and my wife, Megan, was born in Edmonton. I spent summers working on the oil rigs to pay my university tuition. I’d like to believe that the entrepreneurial spirit that is so foundational to Alberta’s strength and resilience rubbed off on me all those many years ago.

Scotiabank opened its first Alberta branch in 1903 and over the past century we have become a significant contributor to its people, communities and economy. We presently employ more than 2500 people across the province and provide our customers here with advice and solutions specific to their banking needs.

We have been proud to support our energy customers in good times and during downturns. In fact, some of our strongest relationships today were forged in more difficult times. We are also grateful for the strong relationships we enjoy with our customers more broadly, be they large multinational corporations, small or medium-sized enterprises, or individuals and their families.

As the President and CEO of a bank with operations in more than 35 countries, I do a fair bit of travelling. The more I travel, the more I realize that so many countries aspire to attain what we have here in Canada: our freedoms, our values and our prosperity. Yet, many Canadians have a lack of appreciation for what went into making this a reality.

Canada’s distinct advantages are the direct result of the sacrifice, the courage and the grit of Canadians who came before us, and the industries and entrepreneurs that have contributed to our lives. Previous generations found a way to say “yes” to major projects and then built them safely and responsibly. A good example are the oil sands, which stand as a testament to human innovation and ingenuity. Saying “yes” to those projects helped to build a country that is the envy of the world.

Like many others, I grow increasingly uneasy when I see so many vital projects cancelled, deferred, or put on hold indefinitely. Industries that help to create millions of jobs, and enable our way of life as Canadians, are being vilified. These are the same industries – it should be said – that are recognized around the world for their technical competence and adherence to the highest environmental and ethical standards.

Desperately needed pipelines, processing and export facilities are consistently bogged down by excessive regulation, misinformation and indecision.

As Canadians, we must not fool ourselves. When investment dollars shift to other jurisdictions, and Canadian competitiveness lags, we all pay the price. A recent report by the C.D. Howe Institute put the total cost of cancelled resource projects at $100 billion, which is the same amount that the federal government committed to spend on vital infrastructure projects over four years.

Canadians are some of the toughest, most innovative people on earth—largely necessitated by our geography and climate. We’re also good at building big things. Enormous bridges and dams, a highway to the Arctic, and, of course, a railroad stretching from one side of the country to the other.

As I watch the news, I find myself wondering when we stopped being a country that knew how to say ‘yes.’ Say yes to big ideas and projects that sustain our future prosperity. What we must do now is find a way to get projects done, for the benefit of all Canadians.

Canada’s distinct advantages are the direct result of the sacrifice, the courage and the grit of Canadians who came before us, and the industries and entrepreneurs that have contributed to our lives. Previous generations found a way to say “yes” to major projects and then built them safely and responsibly.

 

FROM A SPEECH TO THE CALGARY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, MARCH 7, 2019

Author

Brian Porter, President and Chief Executive Officer, Scotiabank

Engaging Canadians | 2018/2019 Annual Report
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