New GG lays out vision for Canada’s future

TheStar.com – News/Canada
Published On Fri Oct 01 2010.   Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau

The Canada of the near future will be a country that better supports its families, invests in innovation and encourages people to donate their time and money to good causes, the new governor general said Friday.

“We are a smart and caring nation,” Governor General David Johnston said in the Senate Chamber, where he was installed in the viceregal role with much pomp and circumstance on Parliament Hill.

“A nation where all Canadians can grow their talents to the maximum. A nation where all Canadians can succeed and contribute,” Johnston said according to speaking notes obtained in advance of his speech. “But there is much work to be done to fully achieve our vision of a smart and caring nation.

“I believe it is essential to support families and children, to reinforce learning and innovation and to encourage philanthropy and volunteerism,” said Johnston, as he outlined what his focus would be in his time as the 28th governor general.

Johnston described those principles as the three pillars for his vision of what Canada would look like as it celebrates its 150th birthday in 2017.

Johnston arrived on Parliament Hill with much fanfare Friday morning where he was greeted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen Harper, whose bright jacket matched the bright red carpet rolled out for the occasion.

There was a traditional honour guard but also a collection of representatives from each of the provinces and territories, who presented the new viceregal couple with roses, which are later to be laid at the tomb of the unknown solider at the National War Memorial.

Those were two features of the festivities that Johnston added himself, as was a grouping of 143 Canadians — veterans and youth — who represent both the past and future of public service.

During his first speech in the job, Johnston spoke proudly of his own family – describing his wife Sharon, whom he dated in high school, as his “best friend, my inspiration, and the wind beneath my wings” and mentioning his five daughters and seven grandchildren – as he talked about how they looked forward to meeting other families nationwide.

Those include military families, for one of his roles is now as Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian military.

“We are looking forward to meeting families with sons and daughters who have served in Afghanistan. And we join in the sorrow of those families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country,” said Johnston. “Our veterans have paid heed to the call to service, and have made our country proud. And my wife and I intend to be with them every step of the way.”

The 69-year-old career academic was recently the president of the University of Waterloo and it was expected that he would make promoting education innovation a central feature of his mandate.

“I believe that no nation in history has worked harder than Canada to ensure equality of opportunity. How do we square that with excellence as well? For me, the answer is through our public educational system which is the most inclusive in the world,” Johnston said.

“How do we ensure accessible education for all so that all Canadians can realize their full potential? And how do we reconcile universal access with stellar achievement? And how do we continue to innovate in order to compete with the world’s best? Innovation at its simplest is crafting a new idea to do things better. Innovation embraces both technological and social innovation,” Johnston said adding that Canada needs “the kind of innovation that has made ‘BlackBerry’ a household expression”.

Johnston then went on to encourage Canadians to strengthen their communities through volunteerism and philanthropy, mentioning both wheelchair marathon winner and fundraiser Rick Hansen and Terry Fox as inspirations.

“Canadians have a long history of coming together. The importance of community can be seen across the country, in our rural communities, and in our cities and towns,” said Johnston, noting he grew up in both Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Earlier, Harper spoke of Johnston as someone who has served his country all his life.

“All through his life, David Johnston has been driven by the intense belief that service is not merely an option. It is a duty, an obligation of the heart that honour compels a man to accept,” Harper said according to speaking notes provided in advance. “He holds it to be so, whether the beneficiaries are his large and devoted family, the institutions at which he has worked, the wider communities in which he has lived or the country that he loves. And, as he believes, so he has lived.”

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