Interview with Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton

ICBA meets Richard Bruton

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, recently spent a number of days in Canada as part of the Government’s 2019 St Patrick’s Day Programme.

The agenda was a mix of culture, business and politics, taking in visits to significant historical sites like Ireland Park, and meetings with political figures like Omar Alghabra, MP and Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna. The Minister also switched on the green lights at Niagara Falls for St Patrick’s Day.

Minister Bruton sat down with the ICBA on his return and spoke in detail about the visit in a ten-minute interview which you can listen to below.

 

We’ve also pulled out some of the highlights which you will find below in lightly-transcribed excerpts.

Meeting Omar Alghabra MP, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification

Omar Alghabra

Omar Alghabra MP, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification

Canada is faced with a very similar challenge as Ireland post-Brexit. We see our largest neighbour possibly putting significant trade barriers in our way. Canada has suddenly realised also that it's 75 percent dependent on the US market and that it's not a market that is quite as guaranteed as it was. So, it was very interesting to exchange thoughts on what Canada is doing with its trade commission to support Canadian businesses internationalizing.

We had meetings with a number of Irish companies there, the common thread was Data Analytics and Financial Technologies and they had developed very good opportunities in Canada solving key problems for Canadian companies. So, it was very interesting to see that on both sides you’re seeing the evolution of new ideas, innovative companies spreading their wings by trading in one another’s markets. At a time when a lot of people talk about protectionism, it’s really exciting to see companies carving out a niche and diversifying and benefiting, and mutual gain - a win-win situation.

Encouraging further Canadian investment in Ireland

There's been a huge expansion in recent years of Canadian investment in Ireland, and it's something that we want to encourage. I attended a business breakfast where very high on the agenda was the changing relationship as a result of Britain exiting the European Union and Ireland being the last common law English-speaking country which is a member of the European Union, and there's no doubt that people in Canada will be looking at Ireland in a fresh light in that respect. So, we have forty very important IDA investors already who have invested in Ireland and we would like to see others follow.

Meeting with Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna – carbon taxes and rebates

Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

It was very interesting to get an insight into what Canada is doing [in the area of Carbon taxes] - they have been pioneers of the idea that we should have a carbon tax with the money refunded. They are proposing that ninety percent of the revenue raised would be returned in a dividend and ten percent would be used for climate action. So, it is very much the idea that the purpose of a carbon tax isn't to raise funds but rather to encourage people to switch the way they behave in their own home and move away from high-carbon ways of living.

They've run into some difficulties because Canada has very independent-minded provinces, and so the relationship between a federal initiative and implementation in the provinces can be fraught. So, there is some pushback in some provinces against these measures and that is a very significant challenge that it is being worked through. I’m not going to comment on domestic politics in Canada, but it does show that anything in this area is a challenge because you're trying to encourage people to change the way they're used to living. And in significant states with either a significant shift in the political climate are indeed very strong interests in oil or the like, that poses greater problems.

They also are looking at this concept of transition and how they would manage, and have been managing, particular sectors that are very badly affected by transition. So, for example, they have committed in some provinces to get out of coal altogether and that obviously has had an impact on some traditional coal mining and coal-dependent areas. So, it was again interesting to see what they're doing in that area.

What can Ireland learn about implementing or increasing carbon taxes from the Canadian model?  

I think the dividend idea is one that is very attractive. The idea that it's clear to the public that when you're raising a tax it isn't a question of trying to raise revenue or putting barriers in the way of people, it's trying to change behaviour for the long term. So, if you receive a cheque in the post, as they are proposing, then that makes it easier for people to accept that this is a good measure.

I think always the problem in relation to climate is people, at a certain part of their brain, accept that it's a good thing, but to make it possible for them to move on from that, to switch to an electric vehicle or to insulate their home or to change to a heat pump, these things are harder steps and so it is important that you get momentum and get citizens engaged. And I think changing the way the tax is perceived is a really important part of that.

Minister Bruton switched on the green lights at Niagara Falls for St Patrick’s Day

Minister Bruton switched on the green lights at Niagara Falls for St Patrick’s Day

How the Irish government is helping Canadian multinationals to grow  

What Ireland did after the crash was rebuild our economy based on enterprise, innovation, and exporting, and that was founded on a very competitive base. And while, yes, as we approach fuller employment there are some pressure points, we currently have the highest productivity growth in Europe, and we're seeing companies do really well competing in the export markets.

The Government is acutely conscious of the need to improve our skill base. We are already the country with the highest third level participation, the highest number of graduates in STEM subjects, we have a very good regime for people who want to take workers in either from the rest of Europe or indeed from further afield to meet a particular skills shortage. So, we have equipped our economy to be sensitive to the needs of international investors both on the skills front and on the tax front, and we are very competitive in many ways.

We have just published a €120bn infrastructural plan where we're planning to roll out the infrastructures that will sustain the progress we're making, and we've identified key areas where there is tightness - housing being a major one, transport of course, and other social areas like health and education. So, I think we have a very strong strategy to continue to be an internationally competitive country, the government is acutely conscious of the needs of multinationals who are trading partners for us and we want to encourage that growth.

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Minister Heather Humphreys speaks at ICBA Trade Briefing

The Ireland-Canada relationship is one that I know the ICBA works hard at fostering and supporting through your membership and events such as today’s.

ICBA also collaborates with a wide range of key stakeholders, such as the Chamber network in Canada, and indeed with the agencies under the remit of my Department, such as Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland.

As Minister, my department and agencies are supportive of the activities of the Association and applaud your ongoing efforts to build partnerships between the vibrant business communities in Ireland and Canada.

Read the full speech

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Minister Eoghan Murphy promotes Ireland-Canada trade and cultural ties in his St Patrick’s Day programme

Today (15-March-2017) Eoghan Murphy TD, Minister of State at the Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure & Reform begins a programme of engagements in Toronto and Montreal.  Commenting on his programme he noted,

I look forward to advancing a relationship built on a shared commitment to open trade and multilateralism.  Our common language and legal tradition and strong cultural ties make Ireland the ideal gateway for Canadian business and investment into the European Union.

Annual trade between Ireland and Canada, the world’s 10th largest economy, exceeds €2.75 billion – a figure expected to increase by a further €250 million with the advent of the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA).

Accordingly the Minister’s programme prioritises his Financial Services and Public Procurement portfolios.  This includes a bilateral with the Ontario Minister for Finance, several IDA Ireland meetings with significant Canadian financial services companies, and an Enterprise Ireland facilitated tour of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District – considered one of the world’s largest SME innovation hubs. Regarding this trade element he commented,

The Canada-EU Agreement will support increased investment into Ireland and give Irish SMEs easier access to a sophisticated, hi-income market.  These are trade imperatives we must continue to act on in pursuit of a stable and prosperous future.  CETA also opens up the Canadian public procurement market which, in tandem with the Canadian Federal Government’s recently announced multi-billion infrastructure investment programme, offers a means for Irish companies to diversify into new markets.

The cultural programme reflects the past and present of Irish migration to Canada.  In Toronto, part of a province where one-in-six inhabitants claim Irish ethnic origin, the Minister will support the Ireland Park Foundation’s efforts to commemorate those Canadians who died caring for the thousands of Irish famine arrivals of the late 1840s.

He will also visit the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre, established to assist young Irish immigrants arriving in the wake of the International Financial Crisis – a figure that peaked at 14,000 per year during the recession.  Commenting on this Minister Murphy noted,

It is right to now highlight the rich tapestry of Irish migration to Canada. This shared heritage illustrates how migration can be a force that binds countries together as opposed to one that divides.

The Minister’s programme concludes in Montreal on Sunday (19-March-2017) where he will meet representatives of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce and Irish community organisations before joining the Mayor of Montreal – Grand Marshal of this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade – in celebrating its 375 year history as the oldest parade in Canada.

Mary Mitchell O'Connor CETA

Job Creation Opportunities will arise following EU Canada Trade Agreement

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, looks forward to the new opportunities that will arise for trade and investment under the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) which is to come into effect this year. The Minister  met with the Ireland Canada Business Association on 18th January 2017.“This Agreement will provide opportunities for Irish companies already trading in Canada as well as a new market diversification opportunity for others. It will also provide opportunities for Ireland to both grow the operations of Canadian companies already in Ireland as well as attracting new Canadian companies to Ireland as a base for servicing the EU market.” In 2015, total exports from Ireland to Canada amounted to €2.3 Billion with over 400 Enterprise Ireland client companies currently exporting to Canada. Canadian companies operating in Ireland that are clients of IDA Ireland employ some 2,800 people across a range of sectors.

“It is my intention to undertake a trade mission to Canada in the near future and I have already asked IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to intensify their efforts to attract further Canadian investment and support Irish companies seeking to enter the Canadian market or increase their existing business levels,” the Minister said.