Inclusive and sustainable economic growth means changing the way we work in our ocean

By: Kendra MacDonald, CEO, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster &
Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Candian Chamber of Commerce
As published in Toronto Star on Nov. 22, 2021

As the newly re-elected government prepares to lay out its legislative priorities in an upcoming Throne Speech, Canadians are eager to know how the policies they voted for will be brought to life. As a sense of urgency for the health of our planet increases, Canadians prioritized sustainable job creation during the election, with an eye toward a collective green ambition.

At the same time, Canadians want these priorities to be implemented in the spirt of Indigenous reconciliation. Commitments to bold climate action made during the general election are cause for optimism, and businesses are eager to learn the details of the path the government will take to reach its climate change objectives.

A transformed blue economy must be a central pillar of the government’s strategy to emerge from the pandemic as a world leader in sustainable and robust economic growth. Absorbing more carbon than all the rainforests combined, Canada’s ocean is home to the world’s largest carbon sink, playing a critical climate regulation role.

This week, the MIT Technology Review released its Blue Technology Barometer, which ranked Canada 10th overall among 66 of the world’s coastal countries and territories based on marine activity, innovation, policy, and climate change.

Not a bad showing. But as a nation boasting the longest coastline in the world, a history deeply connected to ocean resources, and home to some of the most exciting emerging blue technologies worldwide, now is Canada’s time to step up and lead a global blue recovery.

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) and its almost 450 members from across the country have already begun to lead a much-needed transformation. Bringing together ocean sectors and organizations from coast-to-coast-to-coast, the Ocean Supercluster is a collaborative and industry-led network that is triggering new investment, accelerating innovation, and creating new opportunities in Canada’s blue economy in a way that has never been done before.

In the last three years alone, the OSC has approved 64 projects worth $320 million, where 86 per cent are led by small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). Businesses like Horizon Maritime, a company involved in three projects with partners out of Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, two of which are solutions focused on emissions reduction in marine transportation, and the other focused on increasing the participation of Indigenous peoples in ocean sectors. The company’s CEO, Sean Leet, credits the cluster for bringing together partners that would never have considered working together otherwise.

The OSC is early in its journey but is already delivering a direct positive impact in communities both coastal and inland, creating thousands of well-paying jobs and countless others maintained during the pandemic. It also includes programming to increase the participation of Indigenous peoples, women, youth, and other under-represented groups in the blue economy, as well as supporting the growth of forty new ocean companies through its Ocean Startup Project.

As the vital connection between businesses and the federal government, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is advocating to harness the private sector’s innovative drive in service of the blue economy. One need only consider the resilience displayed over the last two years by the business community to know it must have a role in determining what Canada looks like beyond the pandemic. The ingenuity, innovation and experience which characterizes many small and medium-sized business, will deliver robust solutions, and shape the path to net-zero — if they are empowered to do so.

The creation of a Blue Investments Working Group, as endorsed by chambers across the country last month, and led by the Ocean Supercluster, will support a co-ordinated effort to diversify investment products and strategies. A competitive investment climate will foster innovation and empower SMEs to contribute to the development of blue economy and the jobs that come with it.

We look forward to partnering with the federal government to pursue enabling policies and legislation to advance the blue economy — inclusive of developing infrastructure to support the sustainable development and stewardship of Canada’s oceans, rivers, and lakes.

From national child care to renewed commitments in the fight against climate change, the last federal budget contained much to be celebrated. In building Canada’s economic story and the measures needed to stimulate economic growth, the federal government need to look no further than our ocean for a growth and skills development strategy that is grounded in sustainability, digitalization, inclusivity, and respect for other ways of knowing.

Kendra MacDonald
Chief Executive Officer,
Canada’s Ocean Supercluster
Perrin Beatty
President & Chief Executive Officer,
Canadian Chamber of Commerce