On the importance of entrepreneurship

Published on May 11, 2016

On January 18, 2007, as Minister of Industry, I gave this speech on the importance of entrepreneurship and the high economic costs of too much regulation at the Saint-Georges-de-Beauce Chamber of Commerce. -- 10 April 2009


As you probably know, one of the most important keys to prosperity for all Canadians is entrepreneurship. An entrepreneurial approach is vital to our economy, and that is what I would like to discuss with you today.


Wherever I give speeches in Canada, be it in Montréal, Toronto or Saskatoon, I always introduce myself the same way.

I say that I come from the Beauce. That the Beauce region is unique in Canada. That it is well known as Quebec’s most dynamic business centre. That many of Quebec’s best-known business leaders are from the Beauce.

And if you want to understand who Maxime Bernier is and what he does, keep in mind that he comes from the Beauce. And that the Beauce made him what he is.

A year ago, when I announced that I was running for Parliament, I said that I would go to Ottawa to defend les valeurs beauceronnes, the values of the Beauce – values such as integrity, entrepreneurship and individual freedom.

That was my one and only promise.

These values are what guides me in the numerous issues for which I am responsible at Industry Canada. In promoting economic freedom and entrepreneurship, I am defending what I consider to be Beauce values.

These are obviously universal values – values that are at the core of Western civilization and shared by millions of Canadians. Values that have made this country prosperous and a great place to live.

The word “entrepreneur” usually brings to mind business people who are developing new products and investing in risky ventures, but this definition is too narrow. When they are free to create and innovate and reap the benefits of their work, all human beings exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit.

Entrepreneurship is an outlook on life. It is the ability to see opportunities in our environment and exploit them to create something new or make something better.

We can all be entrepreneurs in our own fields, since there is always something to improve, no matter what we do. A hairdresser who can tailor the latest hairstyles to his clients is an entrepreneur. An industrial worker who finds a faster way to assemble a machine is an entrepreneur. A teacher who uses games to keep her students interested in mathematics is an entrepreneur.

All these people create something valuable. They don’t necessarily do it for the money. They do it because it makes their jobs more interesting. Because they believe that they can make a difference. Because it gives meaning to their lives.

By embracing the ideals of entrepreneurship and free enterprise, we make the world a better place, for us and for everyone else.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with my mandate at Industry Canada. Actually, it has a lot to do with this mandate. My department’s mission is to help make the Canadian economy more productive.

You are probably aware that an economy is more productive when people are free to create, innovate, work, exchange ideas and invest. It is more productive when people are motivated to demonstrate their entrepreneurship, in the most traditional business sense and in the general terms I just mentioned.

I believe in economic freedom because I have faith in people. Because I have faith in entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs like you are the very heart of our economy. They drive the economy. They create wealth. It isn’t governments that create jobs, it is entrepreneurs.

Governments at all levels need to nurture entrepreneurs, not punish them with taxes and burdensome red tape. There has been too much government in Canada for too long. Governments dip into our pockets too often. They impose too much red tape. They put a spoke in the wheel of those who want to create. It is time for this to change.

Excessive regulation comes at a price, and the price is very high. Last fall, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a study that explains how unnecessary regulations hamper the implementation of new technologies. According to this study, countries with many restrictive regulations have lower productivity levels.

The study also indicated that productivity in Canadian enterprises could have been higher. It could have been one percent higher every year from 1995 to 2003, if we had adopted regulations similar to those of less restrictive countries for each of our economic sectors. One percent higher per year. We all know that this makes a huge difference after a few years!

The OECD study made another important observation. Excessive regulation has more serious consequences on sectors that make extensive use of information and communications technologies. It is therefore even more crucial that we reduce unnecessary regulations in these sectors.

That is why, over the past few months, I have taken action on many occasions with regard to telecommunications. My goal is to create a new regulatory framework that is more modern, flexible and effective.

I made an order that gives clear policy directions to the CRTC. This is the first time since the Telecommunications Act came into force nearly 15 years ago that any such instruction has been issued to the CRTC. It directs the CRTC to rely on market forces as much as possible in its decision making, and to impose regulations only when needed to protect the interests of Canadians.

I also changed two CRTC decisions that imposed overly burdensome regulations with regard to the Internet and local telephony. It is time that consumers and enterprises benefit from the deregulation of these services. This will lead to a stronger competitive environment and, in turn, more choice, lower prices and better telephone services for all Canadians.

Since it came into power almost a year ago, Canada’s new government, led by Prime Minister Harper, of which I am proud to be a part, has agreed to govern Canada according to a clear vision and an ambitious program.

Reducing personal income tax and the tax burden on business was a key element of the 2006 Budget and of our recent Economic and Fiscal Update.

The 2006 Budget not only confirmed our commitment to reducing the GST by one percentage point, but it also eased the tax burden of Canadians by a total of more than $20 billion over two years. That is more than the overall tax relief provided by the last four federal budgets combined.

In November’s Economic and Fiscal Update, Finance Minister Flaherty publicly announced the Advantage Canada Plan. Under this plan, Canada’s new government has promised to reduce the debt by at least $3 billion in 2006-2007 and each subsequent fiscal year. Canadians will directly benefit from this measure. The interest savings generated by the reduced debt will be returned directly to Canadians through a reduction in personal income taxes. As the Finance Minister said: “Lower debt means less interest means lower taxes; that’s our tax back guarantee.”

I have spoken today of the values of freedom and enterprise that I share with many of you. These are the values that led me into politics.

It is because of you that I am an MP and a minister. It is because of you that Beauce values are so influential in Ottawa. And it’s also because of you, our entrepreneurs, that the country is so prosperous. I am asking you to keep on being entrepreneurs, in your own endeavours and in your own way.

Human progress knows no limits when women and men are free to follow their dreams. My dream is that the 21st century will be, for the Beauce, for Quebec and for Canada, the century of the entrepreneur – a century of unequalled liberty and prosperity. With your support, I want to help make this dream come true.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, entrepreneurs.