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Economy takes centre stage in Oakville

Chamber hosts François-Philippe Champagne and Anita Anand
Oakville News C.S.
Oakville News C.S.

A full house at the Oakville Conference Centre contained a who's who of the local movers and shakers in the business community, the charitable sector, and municipal government.

The influential group listened intently to the plans of the federal government for Canada's future prosperity outlined by two people at the centre of power and decision-making in the Federal government.

It was clear that the audience liked what they heard from François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Treasury Board President, Oakville's MP Anita Anand, as the applause was frequent and enthusiastic. The reception must have gratified President and CEO France Fournier, who has worked to bring this to our community for more than a year.

After years of preoccupation with the pandemic and then the war in Ukraine, the government's focus can now turn back to economic issues, so it was little wonder the room was full and attentive. This shift in emphasis is responsible, said Minister Anand, for her change in portfolio.

The Prime Minister assigned her to the Presidency of the Treasury Board to take advantage of her long experience in and deep study of financial market governance in the private sector.

Queuing for Selfies | People line up to have their picture taken with Oakville MP and President of the Treasury Board Anita Anand | Oakville News
Queuing for Selfies | People line up to have their picture taken with Oakville MP and President of the Treasury Board Anita Anand | Oakville News

Her mandate has two major components, both of significant importance to Oakville's business community and Canadians in general: to cut red tape and liberate business to create wealth and to control and ensure value from government spending so that it is a stimulative and not a drag on wealth creation for Canadians.

In her words, as head of the Treasury Board, she will see the existing programs and new initiatives of every government department and subject everything to two tests: "Is it good for Canadian taxpayers? And, is it prudent?" Unsurprisingly, this was music to the ears of the Oakville business community.

At the same time, Minister Anand emphasized the benefits to the economy of the $ 10-a-day childcare program, the Child Tax Benefit, and the billions being dedicated to housing, including four billion dollars to housing acceleration. She drew attention to the $21 million invested in Oakville for seniors' housing on Kerr St. announced recently, to much approval from the crowd.

For his part, Minister Champagne spoke to the transitions occurring in the economy both in the digital sphere, with Artificial Intelligence, and in the energy transition, which, in his view, is an enormous opportunity for Canada in the electric vehicle supply and manufacturing arena. 

Canada, he pointed out, is the only country that has all of the critical minerals and rare earth elements required to supply the fast-growing battery industry. He highlighted government efforts to position Canada as a centre of innovation for the electric vehicle future.

According to Bloomberg, he said, Canada is now in second position in the world for battery supply chain after China, which would have been hard to imagine only eighteen months ago. The government is clearly very proud of its progress on this front and committed to delivering on the opportunity.

Minister Champagne cited the investments in Volkswagen, Stellantis and Oakville's Ford plant as critical, bold decisions that were necessary to set the stage for our future prosperity from business activity in this sector.

"This is a challenging and changing world, he said, and Canada must position itself as an attractive destination for capital." Key elements for the support for Canadian business are, in his view, food security, energy security, and supply chain resiliency, all elements that make Canada a good place to invest in the face of an arguably adversarial dependency on China.

Another key message Champagne highlighted to the approval of the audience was the government's commitment to "less consolidation, more competition, and lower prices" for Canadians.

The business press has recently highlighted Canada's productivity issues, and these factors conveyed that the government is aware of the factors that drag on economic efficiency and are focused on addressing them.

According to Champagne, Canada is the only G7 country with preferential access to all the other G7 countries. Both Anand and Champagne exuded optimism and excitement about the future in this time of transition.

It is clear they have considerable productive history working together in Cabinet and a strong cooperative relationship: it can only be hoped that extends to the rest of Cabinet and the government team.

It is not surprising. They have been through a great deal together, from accessing vaccines to restoring Canada's vaccine-making capacity to prepare us for future pandemics, evacuating Canadians around the world when COVID-19 hit to gearing up to support Ukraine against Russian aggression. They will continue to work closely as Canada becomes potentially the first country to have a national framework in law to manage Artificial Intelligence.

While both described the role of government as the guardian of public interest, they spoke emphatically about the role of business in building the wealth that enables Canadian prosperity and the need for government to facilitate business in building the economy through the reduction of red tape and a renewed post-pandemic emphasis on cost control in government spending.

Champagne speaks directly to attendees | Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry chats with Oakville residents at Chamber of Commerce event | Oakville News
Champagne speaks directly to attendees | Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry chats with Oakville residents at Chamber of Commerce event | Oakville News

Chamber CEO France Fournier promises to use her persuasion and persistence (which, in this case, had to be maintained for more than a year) to continue to bring informative and influential speakers to Oakville. She has her sights set on hosting Leader of the Opposition Pierre Poilièvre in the very near future, so watch these pages.