Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following remarks at the 6th Annual Chinese Business Excellence Award and New Year Celebration Gala in Markham on January 21, 2011.
(more on the Gala)
"I want to begin by thanking everybody who has been involved in putting this on, to the chairs, to Sean Hu, Benson Wong, Victor Oh. Also to my colleague who just introduced me, Paul Calandra, as well our other colleagues from the Parliament of Canada: Minister Peter Kent; Member of Parliament Colin Carrie; Senator Vim Kochhar; Senator Don Meredith; the local Member of Parliament here, John McCallum; and the Leader of the Opposition from the Legislature, Tim Hudak. If I have forgotten anyone, my apologies, but give a big hand to all of these dignitaries.
"Greetings also to Ambassador Zhang; wonderful to have you here as well Ambassador.
"It's great to be back in Markham and here to celebrate the Chinese New Year with all of you. And it is a particular pleasure to be with you, given the nature of this occasion.
"The Chinese Business Chamber of Canada does great work throughout the year. You bring business people together, and you strengthen the business community. For that alone I applaud you, but tonight is also the night, the sixth of its kind in fact, when you recognize excellence among your members.
"You have awards for innovation, for better ways, more profitable ways, of doing business, including specifically the promotion of international trade. And frankly, all of that, the promotion of excellence, the promotion of trade, the promotion of growth and profits is something that our government is fully behind, and that we also believe should be recognized and rewarded.
"There is a simple truth that is central for all of us: Canada is a trading nation, in a highly competitive world economy. And Canada's strength depends on the success of businesspeople like you. So, when you succeed, when Canadian businesspeople succeed, you are building a stronger Canada. That is what this group, through its activities and awards, is encouraging and I unreservedly commend you for it. And I think we should all give this organization, the Chinese Business Chamber of Canada, a big hand for the work that it does.
"Now, I don't want the soup to get cold, so I am not going to detain you long. But, there are two thoughts, one general and one particular that I should like to share with you. The general one is this. Our Government takes business very seriously - small business especially, because it is what creates long-term jobs for Canadians. You can see how seriously we take good business and how we have reduced taxes for businesses of all size. We want more entrepreneurs, from coast to coast to coast creating more jobs and more prosperity, for more Canadians.
"Several years ago, we legislated long-term reductions in business taxes, to ensure we can compete successfully against our competitors in the G-7 and elsewhere in the creation of employment for Canadians. And, ladies and gentlemen, it is working. For, as you know, Canada has been coming out of the global recession in a position of strength.
"Our country, Canada, has now created more jobs than were lost during the global recession, virtually the only advanced country to achieve that. And, I should add, with deficits and debt levels that are lower than our competitors lower, in most cases, by far. And our Government is committed to honouring those tax reductions and to keeping our taxes down. This government will not bring in any legislation to raise taxes back up and your businesses can take that to the bank.
"The other thing I want to mention is this. Because trade is the foundation of prosperity, we have signed trade agreements with eight countries. You know, we only had five agreements when we came to office. And we are now negotiating trade agreements with about 50 more.
"Of particular interest to you, I know, is our Government's engagement with your ancestral homeland. Over the last five years, we have opened six new trade missions in China, and we have made 39 official, high-level visits. As you know, Laureen and I paid an official visit to China, just over a year ago. We have many fond memories, but it was also highly instructive.
"Two things stick out. First, our walk along the Great Wall and our tour of the Forbidden City; these are true wonders of the world. But then, looking out at Shanghai's enormous and futuristic skyline, we were struck by the contrast between the traditional and the super-modern. For me, it signified both China's magnificent cultural heritage and its vast future potential. No doubt many of you have observed the same thing. It is incredibly moving, and it points us to the future.
"I think you should regard last year's visit of President Hu Jintao as pointing that way as well. We welcomed President Hu in Ottawa just before the G-20 Summit. And, as you know, there our governments concluded an agreement that will make it easier for Chinese Nationals to visit our country. I refer, of course, to Approved Destination Status for Canada. This will encourage more people from China to visit Canada, and that can only make our relationship stronger. That, I believe, is a goal that we all share, a goal that, if pursued with passion and hard work, will be to the lasting benefit of both Canada and China for decades. I urge you to pursue it, with all your energies.
"So, ladies and gentlemen, it is a real honour for me to be here tonight. I want to add my own personal congratulations to each one of the award winners; I had a chance to meet them backstage. And also a great honour to share with all of you in the celebration of the New Year.
"As you know, I am told it is the Year of the Rabbit, one, I am told, promises to be a year of calmness and tranquility. I certainly hope that is true in our Parliament.
"In the meantime, I want to thank you all for everything that you do for our country, day in and day out, and to wish all of you happiness, health and good fortune in the Year of the Rabbit and beyond.