Speech from the Throne—Motion for Address in Reply

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Hon. Marty Klyne: Honourable Senators, my remarks today follow Senator Harder’s comments of May 11 in this chamber toward a plan for sustainable, inclusive and shared prosperity across Canada. Senator Harder focused on the federal government’s Budget 2022 while highlighting ideas from the Senate Prosperity Action Group’s report last fall. One such idea is a prosperity council, an independent body to support and facilitate federal-provincial collaboration.

As a senator for Saskatchewan and a business person, today I will focus on the need for greater federal-provincial and Indigenous collaboration in Canada on energy, the environment and economic reconciliation. I’ll discuss Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson’s June proposal for regional energy and resource tables, followed by the National Indigenous Economic Strategy announced in June by a coalition of Indigenous organizations. I will close by highlighting ways that a prosperity council, as discussed by Senator Harder, could further collaboration and enhance shared prosperity in our federation.

At the outset, in considering Canada’s economic landscape, I acknowledge the need to control inflation, a global problem with complex causes, including the war in Ukraine. The Bank of Canada plays the key role domestically of managing inflation by adjusting its key policy interest rate. The Senate and our country’s business community respect the independence of that public institution. However, in acknowledging the need to address inflation through monetary policy, I do not think history will remember inflation as the major economic issue of our time; that will be climate change.

This summer, heat waves and flooding pushed people and nations to the edge. It’s not hard to find examples both globally and within Canada. Our hearts go out to the people of Pakistan following the flooding of one third of their country with an estimated 16 million children affected. With climate change contributing to severe weather, Atlantic Canada has faced devastating storms like Hurricane Fiona. Western Canada has experienced extreme drought and dangerously high temperatures. Future generations may view this period as humanity’s last opportunity to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

The Canadian government and Parliament have taken some action but not enough to lower emissions or demonstrate global leadership. Our window of time is closing relatively fast. The good news is that Canada has the resources to help the world achieve a successful transition to net zero. For example, our mining industry finds a generational opportunity with critical minerals such as those used in batteries. We have huge opportunities in lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, copper and rare-earth elements. An energy transition is not possible without such critical minerals; demand for lithium and cobalt is expected to increase by 4,000% by 2050.

In my province, the Saskatchewan Research Council and Vital Metals Inc. are two organizations developing rare earths processing facilities in Saskatoon, the first of their kind to be built in North America. Canada can generate incredible prosperity while helping save the environment, and we can continue to supply the free world with oil and gas during the transition. This can be a win-win, but only if we are serious about turning the tide on climate change.

My province shares rising temperatures with the rest of Canada’s provinces and territories. We also share inflation, taxes, equalization, diversity and the Canadian Constitution. However, we don’t always share political views when it comes to policy objectives and spending, recognizing that this is democracy — government by the people, under the rule of law.

There are many other factors that make Saskatchewan unique. Like every other region in Canada, Saskatchewan has its own unique strengths to build on, competitive advantages to cultivate and challenges to face head-on. That said, as a federation we are collectively much stronger and more globally competitive, with huge potential to advance prosperity, especially when senior levels of government, industry and Indigenous nations consult with each other and collaborate.

Based on my experience in business, regional economic development and Parliament — and considering the challenges and values we share across Canada — collaborative leadership will serve us best. One thing I have learned over the decades about economic development projects — specifically the sizable ones — is that the federal government will not do it alone, and the provinces can’t do it alone.

I’ve also come to believe that advance consultation and collaboration between the federal government and provinces and territories has become paramount in moving the agenda forward, and the many challenges we face as a federation require a whole-of-nation approach.

For example, a consultative and collaborative approach between the federal government and Saskatchewan should benefit Saskatchewan at its proposed regional energy and resource table, which is an ideal location for Saskatchewan to define our future in a changing economy and ideally collaborate with the federal government to identify and accelerate a common list of the top two or four key economic growth priorities to tackle and take on together. Active consultation, collaboration and building on common ground could deliver success in three related areas that are vital and of mutual interest to Saskatchewan and Canada’s prosperity and well-being: energy, the environment and economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

While Saskatchewanians have spirited conversations about autonomy, we should not miss our chance to capitalize on opportunities and build on our reputation for hard work, innovation and patriotism. Saskatchewan has always found ways to simplify complex situations for others by devising made-in-Saskatchewan solutions. We have what the world wants, and we can deliver, working with partners across the country. In polarized times, the centre of Canadian federalism can and must hold, including respect for federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous jurisdictions, public institutions and Charter values.

Mindful of this necessity, what can collaboration achieve for provinces in our country? One achievement already under way is affordable child care, further to the 2021 federal-provincial agreement. That agreement will give many kids a better start in life and help many parents better balance family, business and social pursuits. This example of collaborative leadership is a credit to both orders of government and a model for how to approach other challenges.

On the subject of energy and the environment, on June 1, federal Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson — who grew up, studied and worked in Saskatchewan — launched the first Regional Energy and Resource Tables. This is a constructive effort to bring together the federal and provincial governments, Indigenous peoples, business leaders, industry groups, unions and others to advance key priorities in the natural resources sector.

In July, Minister Wilkinson highlighted many emerging opportunities in his remarks to the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce and the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. The Regional Tables initiative involves commencing a phased approach to working-level discussions with provinces. I do expect that when it’s Saskatchewan’s turn, we will embrace this conversation and take our rightful seat at the table to define our future in a changing economy and collaborate with the federal government to identify and accelerate a common list of the top two or four key economic growth priorities to take on together.

Saskatchewan has much to contribute to a greener economy. Our areas of strength include carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies, including the Petroleum Technology Research Centre at the University of Regina; flood and drought mitigation through the proposed expansion of Lake Diefenbaker irrigation, concurrently leading to sustainable agriculture and food processing, setting the table for a burgeoning and incrementally new agri-food sector and, hence, food security; Protein Industries Canada, our plant protein supercluster; Soileos, a new, sustainable, non-polluting and climate-positive micronutrient fertilizer that assists farmers in boosting their yield while at the same time returning carbon to their soil and reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer in future years; biofuels, including aviation fuel; critical minerals, including uranium from the world’s largest high-grade deposits to fuel regional and other reactors; and small modular reactors.

On that point, SaskPower is currently studying the Estevan and Elbow areas as potential sites for small modular reactors. As an energy leader in the country, Saskatchewan already has the know-how to guide a transition. Many skills and areas of expertise will transfer. Saskatchewanians welcome opportunities to leverage our strengths and create future prosperity while contributing to Canada’s scientifically grounded environmental goals — a just and fair transition.

Speaking of “just and fair,” all these efforts can and must support economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. When I speak of the need for collaborative leadership, we know that Indigenous people have often faced one-sided and coerced agreements, exclusion from business and violations of their rights over land and resources.

On June 6, 2022, a coalition of more than 25 Indigenous organizations unveiled a new National Indigenous Economic Strategy with four strategic pathways: people, lands, infrastructure and finance. Their 107 Calls to Economic Prosperity can provide new energy and guidance to discussions between jurisdictions, and should be considered in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP, action plan.

In both the public and private sectors, Canadians’ fundamental responsibility to recognize Indigenous rights and eliminate barriers will unlock capacity and growth, benefiting everyone. One helpful resource is RBC’s June report entitled 92 to Zero: How economic reconciliation can power Canada’s climate goals.

For example, the report notes that achieving net zero:

. . . will rely heavily on vital sources of capital held by Indigenous nations. RBC estimates Canada needs roughly $2 trillion in capital over the next 25 years, much of it from Indigenous sources—or unlocked by Indigenous partnerships, including ownership.

The report outlines four sources of capital held by Indigenous nations. They are: natural capital, including 56% of advanced critical mineral projects, 35% of top solar sites and 44% of wind sites; financial capital, meaning the growing wealth of Indigenous nations, including an estimated $120 billion of trust assets and outstanding land and other claims; intellectual capital, incorporating Indigenous knowledge and traditional values; and human capital, including young Indigenous leaders, entrepreneurs and Indigenous members of the workforce.

On the last point, we have a massive skills shortage in this country in science, technology, engineering and math. The Indigenous population is growing at twice the rate of the non-Indigenous population. If Indigenous youth are given fair opportunities to gain these skills, they can make valued contributions to our future prosperity. They just need that chance.

In developing the Senate Prosperity Action Group’s report last year, we heard about economic reconciliation from representatives of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the National Indigenous Economic Development Board, the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, Cando, Coastal First Nations and the University of Saskatchewan.

We heard that Indigenous-owned businesses currently contribute an estimated $32 billion to the Canadian economy, and Indigenous business leaders have set an ambitious goal of a $100 billion performance target. Let’s make it happen.

The Senate Prosperity Action Group has aimed to contribute ideas towards inclusive and sustainable prosperity. I close by highlighting one idea that could assist in jurisdictional collaboration. To that end, I repeat Senator Harder’s call to create a new prosperity council. This was a key recommendation of our report with the goal of creating a neutral and independent body to coordinate and support federal-provincial engagement. A prosperity council could help by publishing research, convening meetings, promoting dialogue among governments and stakeholders, studying policy options and opportunities and measuring objectives. An immediate goal could be implementing free interprovincial trade further to the 2017 Canadian Free Trade Agreement.

Interprovincial free trade was a goal identified in Budget 2022. According to the International Monetary Fund, Canada could increase our GDP per capita by 4% through a free flow of interprovincial goods. What are we waiting for?

Canadian businesses can also demonstrate to Canadians that working together has huge benefits. Our country shouldn’t be so polarized. We need to push back against partisan incentives aimed at avoiding federal-provincial collaboration.

The Senate can help lower the temperature and maintain focus on Canadians’ shared values and interests. We have a lot more in common than the voices of partisanship suggest.

Let’s work together to succeed together, including in Saskatchewan and across the country. I invite senators to join debate, and let’s look for opportunities to make a difference.

Thank you, Hiy kitatamîhin.

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