Prime Minister Trudeau announces Perimeter funding; lauds Waterloo Region ecosystem

by Anthony Reinhart

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau charmed a packed atrium at Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute today, as he affirmed $50 million in federal funding to support theoretical physics research and launched into a pitch-perfect explanation of quantum computing.

As shafts of spring sunlight illuminated the airy space, Trudeau also underscored the importance of the Waterloo Region innovation community to Canada as a whole – as further evidenced by the fact it was his second visit in less than three months, early on in his government’s mandate.

“I was last here in Kitchener-Waterloo back in January, for the opening of Google’s new Canadian headquarters,” the Prime Minister began. “I said at the time that government needs to bet on Canada, to invest in Canada. I’m happy to say that last month, we introduced a budget that does just that.”

That budget included a $50 million commitment, over five years, for the world-leading research happening at Perimeter.

Accompanied onstage by Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger, Perimeter founder Mike Lazaridis and its Director, Neil Turok, Trudeau pointed out that every federal dollar invested will be matched by two dollars from the institute’s other partners, representing “$150 million to help foster Kitchener-Waterloo’s innovation ecosystem.”

Some of those funds will go towards boosting participation in science among young students, particularly girls in high school, 200 of whom were on hand for the Prime Minister’s visit. They were participating in a half-day Perimeter conference called Inspiring Future Women in Science, and were treated to further time with Trudeau, who also serves as Canada’s Minister of Youth, after the official proceedings had ended.

“It’s extremely important to underline just how important the work being done here is,” said Trudeau, who earlier enjoyed a video welcome to Perimeter from Stephen Hawking, a distinguished visiting research chair at the institute. “Not just for Canada, but for the entire world.”

During a media question-and-answer session after his speech, Trudeau spoke to the need for better transportation links between Waterloo Region and Toronto, a subject he became aware of during a visit to Communitech in 2014.

“When I first came to Communitech here in Waterloo, I sat around a table of innovators and leaders from big companies, like Google and RIM, to small ones, little startups, and I said ‘Tell me what the federal government can do to help you guys,’” he said. “I was expecting [to hear] better access to venture capital, better R&D credits, and maybe some help with immigration to bring great talent that we want to bring in to work on our projects quickly.”

Trudeau said he did hear about all those things, “but the number one thing I was hearing was, ‘We need better transportation along the corridor to Toronto and back for the K-W region.’ That was something that I heard loud and clear, and that’s part of why, in our platform, we put forward $20 billion over the next 10 years into public transit infrastructure.”

Trudeau said VIA Rail can be part of the solution, along with more frequent GO train service and better highway connections. His Minister of Infrastructure, Amarjeet Sohi, will be meeting with provincial and municipal officials to map out a strategy, “not just for the benefit of the people who live here, but for the benefit of the entire Canadian economy, because what you do here matters as much as just about anything else that happens anywhere in Canada. We will be that partner.”

When a reporter asked a question that had nothing to with today’s announcement, Trudeau instead answered by embarking on a rapid-fire explanation of quantum computing that earned him a roar of approval and a standing ovation from the crowd.

by Anthony Reinhart is Director, Editorial Strategy Communitech News

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