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D. Meredith: Address to World Summit 2013

PhotoI am the fourth African Canadian and the first Jamaican to be appointed to the Senate of Canada in its 146-year history. I am blessed to call such a prosperous and diverse country my home. Canada was in fact founded by an immigrant to our shores, Sir John A. Macdonald, and our second Prime Minister, Alexander Mackenzie, was also an immigrant to our land; both originated from Scotland.

I was deeply impacted by the speech we heard earlier from the Hon. Ran Cohen. I commend his bold convictions about addressing conflict. We need more individuals like him to promote awareness, compassion, peace, and harmony.

Distinguished guests, I urge citizens and governments of all countries to work together to find solutions to conflict and violence. My government believes that Canada's longstanding commitment to the principles of peace, security, and freedom go hand in hand with economic development. Freedom of religion and the freedom to worship in peace and security is something we take very seriously. Canada recently established an Office of Religious Freedom to promote global religious freedom. Canadians continue to provide assistance to many countries through peacekeeping missions and through the delivery of humanitarian aid. Canada also promotes democracy, the disarming of terrorists, and training of police forces. Tens of thousands of Canadians have served in more than 40 international peace support operations, but there is more work to be done.

Terrorism is another factor that can seriously damage positive momentum of global economic growth. In response to the 2001 terrorist attacks, Canada has responded proactively to the implementation of security measures. A new border agreement between Canada and the United States facilitates the sharing of information and increased security of people and goods being transported between borders. Canada has also recently implemented its first counter-terrorism strategy, which aids government in making decisions to prioritize and evaluate threats. Canada’s Global Partnership Program seeks to reduce the spread of weapons and materials that could be used in terrorist attacks. Last year the Canadian government announced the creation of the Initiative for Security in Central America to be managed by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. The initiative focuses on police training, border security, supporting conflict resolution, human rights, and prevention of violence. The implementation of this initiative is one example of the good work being accomplished by inter-American cooperation. Another example of successful partnership is the ParlAmericas organization which unites countries in our hemisphere that are committed to strengthening security, democracy, and governance. This leadership forum promotes dialogue to combat common concerns throughout the Americas.

Psalm 34:14 tells us to “turn from evil and do good; to seek peace and pursue it.”

Partnerships that strengthen security and democracy are vital, because without peace and stability, successful trade partnerships cannot be built. Free trade agreements have been proven to foster innovation, efficiency, and higher paying jobs, but without a stable and peaceful environment, businesses can’t grow. Canada wants to engage its partners in the Americas to promote efficient, innovative, and open markets. However, robust economic prosperity must be balanced. Responsible governments must manage increased growth with the facets of human development, to ensure access to education and healthcare improves the quality of life of all citizens. This should be the main focus of governments in all nations.

The global economy is becoming more open, more dynamic, and more integrated every day. Emerging economies, such as Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, are performing strongly despite the challenges facing the world as a whole. The natural resource industry is growing at a rapid rate in the Americas, but nations must work together to develop technological advancements and efficiencies to maximize long-term economic potential.

It was my political party that took the great historic leap of faith and negotiated the highly successful Canada-US Free Trade Agreement in the late 1980s, later expanded into NAFTA. Among G7 countries, Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business and investment, which doesn’t hurt either. The world is taking notice, Forbes magazine ranked Canada as number one in its annual review of the best countries for business every year for the last five years running.

These factors have helped Canada remain economically sound despite turbulent economic times. Canada emerged from the clutch plague as the only G7 country to recoup all of the jobs lost as a result of the global recession, and the World Economic Forum ranked Canada’s banking system as the world’s soundest for the fifth year in a row in 2012. These accomplishments occurred despite the implementation of a strict deficit reduction plan, which strives for a deficit-free Canadian economy by 2015. Lessons in conservative lending practices, investor protection, lack of red tape, and effective regulations can be globally shared through partnerships and success sharing strategies.

Canada is also fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources that attracts foreign investment. Natural resources account for 15 percent of our gross domestic product and 50 percent of our exports. Forestry products, mining, oil, and natural gas are booming sectors of the Canadian economy. The petroleum sector is rapidly becoming larger and more diverse facilitated by the expansion of the Alberta oil sands. Canadian oil reserves rank us as the third largest exporter of oil worldwide, just behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

I believe that nations with natural resources must ensure that revenues derived from those resources are invested back into the nation for the benefit of its people. If this is done, then we will have nations that are engaged in active development; they will be more peaceful and secure. If this is not done, you will have unrest, our youth will find ways to make money by robberies, drugs, and kidnappings ,and the list goes on. The drug cartels are manufacturing and trafficking to our youth at an alarming rate. I believe we must fight this war aggressively in the pursuit of peace among peoples and nations to save the lives of our youth.

Canadian agricultural products accounted for an estimated $481.7 billion dollars in exports in 2012. This is in addition to the exportation of industrial machinery, aircrafts, telecommunications equipment, electricity, aluminum, and other products that continue to be in high demand. In addition to strengthening ties to the United States and Mexico, our NAFTA partners, Canada is keen to aggressively pursue other trade and investment opportunities worldwide. Canada is the process of negotiating a free-trade agreement with the Caribbean. A bilateral trade agreement with CARICOM could deliver commercial benefits across many sectors of Canadian and Caribbean economies and would also provide a more secure and predictable business environment for Canadian investment. However, the CARICOM community lacks the capital to truly engage on the world stage as they would like to. It will take strong leadership on the part of the Caribbean community to look at the bigger picture of the opportunities that will be opened to them. There has to be a new strategy of investment, not just aid. In fact, since 2007 Canada has invested over $650 million to support areas of energy creation, micro finance, infrastructure development, and capacity building. There has to be a willingness on the part of the leadership to do things differently for the peace, security, and development of its people.

Recently, I took part in a trade mission to Ghana and Nigeria alongside the Canadian Minister of International Trade and representatives from 30 Canadian organizations. This was an excellent opportunity to open new markets in the infrastructure and extractive sectors as well as to create jobs and knowledge sharing opportunities. As you can see, Canada maintains global partnerships on all continents. We are just as eager to partner with our friends in the Western Hemisphere to help unlock their vast potential and promote strong and sustainable growth over the long-term leading to stronger, safer economies in the Americas. Latin America’s low inflation rate and renewed social policy agenda has opened doors for change, but barriers remain. Social inequality, high public debt, and lack of fiscal stability are barriers to growth. Governments have committed to social improvements through poverty reduction and equality measures, which are positive steps and are key initiatives to improving quality of life. I believe that working together is the best means of promoting change.

Booming economies not only have to balance the social impacts of growth but must be environmentally sustainable to ensure long-term prosperity. Canada recognizes the importance of maintaining a balance between harnessing our natural resources and protecting our environment. We have implemented a plan for responsible resource development. The plan will streamline major projects by ensuring timely reviews, strengthening environmental protection, and enhancing consultations with Aboriginal peoples, especially over the Keystone pipeline. We are aggressively looking for new markets in the Americas and beyond for products and services, as we know our biggest trading partner, the US, is looking outside its borders as well. Our Prime Minister is implementing plans to ensure that our extractive industry is developed in an ethical and corporately sound manner. In March 2009, Canada announced the implementation of a strategy dedicated to advancing and promoting corporate social responsibility specifically in the extractive sector.

In addition to environmental concerns, the reality of Canada’s aging demographic must be addressed. If ignored, this could have detrimental impacts to the stability of our workforce and economy. The Canadian government has recently made many reforms to its immigration system with its aging population in mind. The modernization of Canada’s immigration system will result in a faster, more efficient, and proactive approach that will help sustain growth and maintain the economic prosperity we currently enjoy. Over the last several years we have had to import skilled workers, especially to the Western region of the country.

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration indicated that there were over 33,000 permanent resident immigrants in Canada between the ages of 15 and 24 in 2011. Young people must have the right tools to adequately replace an aging workforce. Our youth are not only our future, but our present as well. This is why I am so deeply committed to the development of a National Youth Strategy in Canada, since a percentage of our youth are facing many challenges, which if not dealt with will continue to lead to more youth violence and more deaths. For this reason, I seek to engage, encourage, and empower young people. I want to build bridges and open doors to youth success. Our youth are not only 20 percent of our population, but they are 100 percent of our future. We must be true role models for them; we must nurture them into the leaders of tomorrow. As leaders, it is imperative that we not only talk about the kind of society we want our youth to live it, but we give them the skills and resources to implement it. Now is the time for action.

I would like to thank you for welcoming me here today to share some of the pillars of Canada’s success. We are a strong nation that continues to build relationships, welcome trade, and prepare our citizens for future success while gaining increasing attention on the world stage. It is my sincere hope that through partnership with other strong countries, Canada will continue to lead less economically sound countries into global, safe, and prosperous ones. I leave you with the words of the great Martin Luther King: “an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Thank you. God bless you and your families, and may the blessings of the Lord rest upon you.

 For more information about World Summit 2013, click here.