Justin Trudeau distances himself from Harper at World Economic Forum in Davos
'There has never been a better time to look to Canada,' PM tells business, government leaders in Davos
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his moment on the main stage of the World Economic Forum today in Davos, Switzerland to present Canada as uniquely suited for the transforming global economy.
"If you are looking for a country that has the diversity, the resilience, the positivity and the confidence that will not just manage this change but take advantage of it, there has never been a better time to look to Canada."
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Trudeau spoke to a few hundred attendees inside the main hall at the WEF, attended annually by world leaders and the business elite.
The prime minister and several of his cabinet ministers are there for four days of presentations and meetings. This year's summit is focused on the idea of the "fourth industrial revolution," the idea that rapid technological innovation will drive a new era of change in the global economy.
"Today, we are gathered here to contemplate whether we are in the early stages of a fourth industrial revolution. What a breathtaking possibility that is," Trudeau said. "Steam power changed the world utterly. So did electricity and more recently, computers. And now we may be on the cusp of change equal in magnitude and of a far swifter pace."
In explaining why and how Canada could lead be at the forefront of this change, Trudeau attempted to differentiate himself from Stephen Harper, who addressed Davos as prime minister in 2012.
"My predecessor wanted you to know Canada for its resources," he said. "I want you to know Canadians for our resourcefulness."
Singling out Canada's strengths
Trudeau delivered his remarks in the midst of challenging economic conditions at home. The price of oil has sunk to levels not seen in more than a decade, leaving governments scrambling to find new sources of revenue, not to mention tens of thousands have already lost their jobs in the oil patch.
But the Canadian dollar has declined in lock step with lower oil prices, which could be a shot in the arm for other areas of the economy that could benefit from a lopsided exchange rate.
Trudeau spoke of investing in infrastructure, science and education, but focused particularly on Canada's diversity, and related it to his government's welcoming of Syrian refugees.
"When I welcomed those families to Toronto last month, I welcomed them as new Canadians and as the future of the Canadian economy," he said, referring to an official welcoming event that was picked up by news media around the world.
He also noted that Ontario's University of Waterloo had recently been commended for its ability to produce innovative thinkers.
"It has high intellectual standards, of course," he said. "And it values entrepreneurship. But diversity is its indispensable ingredient. Waterloo's students come from everywhere. Fully half the graduate engineering students are international."
He stressed the need for leadership.
"Technology itself will not determine the future we get. Our choices will. Leadership will," he said.
"I believe in positive, ambitious leadership. I don't believe leaders should prey on the anxiety of the disenfranchised. Leadership should be focused on extending the ladder of opportunity to everyone. On pursuing policies that create growth, and on ensuring that growth produces tangible results for everyone."
Trudeau to hob nob with Facebook, billionaires
The public stage of the WEF's annual meeting in Switzerland is an obvious showcase for Trudeau and his ministers to be seen before the global elite. But the private meeting rooms of Davos will also be the stage for the unseen wooing of a wealthy audience, with the hope of attracting potential investors to Canada.
Before addressing the forum, Trudeau met privately with Ben van Beurden, chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell, the oil giant. He was also scheduled to meet Wednesday with famed financier George Soros, as well as executives from Facebook and Microsoft.
Trudeau's presence in Davos has been widely touted by the international press and his speech was followed by an onstage interview with American journalist Fareed Zakaria, which was to be later aired on CNN.
Later in the week, Trudeau's retinue of cabinet ministers — including Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and Treasury Board President Scott Brison — will participate in a luncheon meant to mark a "new chapter for Canada."