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Notes for remarks by
The Honourable Mike Harris, MPP
Premier of Ontario

The National Research Council Roundtable
Toronto, Ontario
April 19, 2000

In keeping with your theme for today, I want to talk to you about innovations. And congratulate you for making Ontario a global leader in providing innovative technology solutions.

I will also speak about some of the things our government is doing to keep Ontario’s economy strong, and to keep our best and brightest minds here at home.

It's good to see people whose businesses represent so many different applications coming together. Just like the connections between the fibre optic technology and the video equipment in the hotel is helping me to join you today.

New innovations in fibre optic telecommunication, like those being developed by JDS Uniphase in Nepean, are allowing more and more machines to talk to each other, and to communicate more quickly.

In today's world, everything is interconnected. And no place better represents that than today's Ottawa.

Companies that make a whole range of information technology products. From computer graphics to microsystems. From software, to semiconductors.

You've not only changed the technology. And changed the way people do business. You've changed Ottawa.

For some, the sign of status in Ottawa used to be a Senate appointment. Now it's the company box at a Senators' game. With hockey and high tech, Kanata has replaced Parliament Hill as the most talked about part of the National Capital Region.

In fact, the most famous people in Ottawa aren't Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, they're John Roth and Michael Cowpland. With double-digit growth in Ottawa’s high-tech sector, and Cisco Systems planning a new development centre -- we're counting down the days until there are more people in Ottawa working in high tech, than in government.

Because it's no longer just politics that makes Ottawa our nation’s capital. It's also the technology business. Politicians used to believe it was government that held such a huge country together.

As William Lyon Mackenzie King once said, "If some countries have too much history, we have too much geography."

We used to count on the railroad to bridge that distance. But today, it's technology.

The Anik satellite was to the 1980s what the Railroad was to the 1880s. Now fibre-optic technologies are transforming communications around the world.

Our strength in technology and telecommunications used to be a secret. But not any more. The world is catching on. You know, the current issue of PC Computing tells Americans, and I quote, "The world's hush hush e-commerce powerhouse is just a few miles away."

The world is hearing more success stories from all over Ontario. Like Keith Peiris. The 11-year old CEO of a London, Ontario company that is designing websites.

They are hearing about made-in-Ontario innovations like the BlackBerry, that was developed by Waterloo's Research-In-Motion. To give busy executives wireless e-mail service.

They are hearing about new products from companies like Corel, Nortel, and so many others. And the world knows to look to Ontario for innovations in information technology.

Canadians are natural innovators. The challenges of our winters have forced us to find creative solutions. We invented the snowshoe. And the ski-doo, too.

So it's no coincidence that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in Canada. Ice and snow inspired countless inventions. Not to mention the occasional hockey game.

In the words of another legendary communicator from Brantford. Wayne Gretzky. "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it's been." Could there be any better description of how Canadian companies approach technology? Of why high-tech took off in Ottawa? Of why there are so many successful people gathered today at the Chateau Laurier. It's because you skate to where the puck is going to be!

Last month, an Angus Reid survey of Canada's CEOs was released. It found that 93 per cent of our CEOs say their companies are doing everything possible to keep a technological edge.

But the same survey found that about 40 per cent say that the most serious issue facing business today is taxation. Which brings me to the second topic I wish to briefly address. At Queen's Park we believe that lower taxes lead to a strong economy.

That lower taxes fight the brain drain and encourage our best and brightest young people to pursue their dreams, right here in Ontario.

That's why we cut personal income taxes. Not slightly. Not marginally. But by more than 30 per cent.

We've already begun cutting them by a further 20 per cent. And we're cutting small business taxes to the lowest level in Canada.

As well, we're strengthening two of our greatest incentives for people to stay here -- our health care system and our education system. At the same time as we're eliminating the deficit, we're also investing record amounts into health care.

On the education side, our new Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund has invested $250 million in 63 research projects, so far. We are working with universities, research institutes and private sector partners. And with their contributions, we've leveraged our $250 million investment into a $700 million worth of R&D.

We’re tying new funding for universities to actual job placement numbers -- to encourage universities to give our young people the skills they need to compete. Our new SuperBuild initiative will help our universities to expand, with new buildings and programs to prepare our young people for a confident future and connect our communities globally.

And through our Ontario Innovation Trust we have made a $250 million investment in Ontario's research infrastructure … at universities, colleges, hospitals and research institutes.

All of this will help us to capitalize on our traditional strengths. A well-educated work force. Abundant resources. And a location at the centre of the North American market.

At the Chateau Laurier, you have gathered as leaders. As the people responsible for finding the new ideas that will help to better integrate technology into people's everyday lives.

You are getting us ready for the world of real time computing. Where the books are balanced on-line. And more products arrive on time. For a world where the courier industry will be in greater demand -- as they deliver all those on-line orders.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are the ones shaping that future. And it's an exciting one for Ontario. One where we continue to be a world leader in innovative ideas and new technology.

I thank you for taking the time to listen to me today, and I wish you all the best for a very successful roundtable.

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