Allan Rock: What broadband means to me

TORONTO — Minister of Industry Allan Rock says broadband access is still an important component if Canada is to transform itself into a world leader in innovation.

Rock delivered the message at a luncheon hosted by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in downtown Toronto on Tuesday.

His comments indicated a strategy that does not deviate far from that of his predecessor, Brian Tobin, who left politics last month.

While as a country we’ve enjoyed some success, Rock pointed to Canada’s debt to GDP ratio, which was 74 per cent about 10 years ago but will dip below 50 per cent next year — a 17 year low — and a tumbling capital gains tax. While this is progress, he deemed it “”not good enough.

“”The time has come to take things to next level. To address the chronic questions about our economic performance,”” he told an audience of about 150.

Rock said to improve our standing in the world we must become a more innovative country, and he offered a four part plan to get there.

  • Improve R&D and the pace at which ideas are brought to market. The goal, Rock said, is to rank in the top five in R&D performance by 2010 and double the amount invested in R&D over that time
  • Build a skilled workforce to succeed in the new economy. Rock said he wants to build a scholarship program similar to the Rhodes model and increase by an average of five per cent a year through 2010 the number of masters and PhD students.
  • Create a business and regulatory environment that helps progress and entrepreneurship. To this end, by 2010 the business and regulatory policies will be overhauled, Rock said, to ensure they jive with an innovative economy, and the Canadian Academies of Science will be founded to provide independent scientific counsel.
  • Build communities people want to live in. Rock said investment must be made into roads, schools and broadband.

“”We will ensure that high-speed broadband access is available to Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast by 2005,”” he said.

“”Broadband to me means a physician in a northern community being able to use telemedicine to access a consultation with a specialist.””

“”Broadband to me means enabling a small or medium-sized business operator in a rural community having access to the tools that person needs to compete, not only with Canadian companies, but with the world. There’s no reason why those opportunities shouldn’t be spread equally among Canadians.””

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