PDAC Interview: PM Justin Trudeau speaks on Canadian mining innovation, aboriginal engagement

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a visit to the annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) in Toronto on March 5, 2019, for a sit-in interview conducted by outgoing PDAC president Glenn Mullan.

Below is a full transcript of the 20-minute interview, edited for clarity. Topics that Trudeau and Mullan discussed included technological innovation, sustainable mining practices, federal regulatory changes and reconciliation efforts with Canada’s First Nations.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) being interviewed by outgoing PDAC president Glenn Mullan at the annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada in Toronto on March 5, 2019. Credit: Government of Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) being interviewed by outgoing PDAC president Glenn Mullan at the annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) in Toronto on March 5, 2019. Credit: Government of Canada.

Glenn Mullan: We’re so much looking forward to the fireside chat without a fire. And we have a couple of topics that we thought would be agreeable for discussion, including Canada’s competitiveness, indigenous affairs and some of the regulatory things that we’re working on in collaboration with your government in particular.

There’s a lot of people that work in the mining industry in Canada — about 630,000 that come from every province, every territory, every community in Canada. And so competitiveness is a key part of our industry and we face challenges from a broad range of sources, some domestic — cannabis, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain — and international — Australia and many other countries that compete with us.

But one of the things that we were thrilled to see this year was the renewal of the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for five years. Before, each year we met the renewal with relief more than enthusiasm since 2000?

Justin Trudeau: Eighteen straight one-year renewals.

GM: That means at one point you’ve got to say, “Okay. This is a good thing, let’s do it for five years.” And that’s what we did in the fall. And maybe you could explain a little bit about why your government thought it was important to the minerals industry and mining exploration in particular.

JT: Well, it’s more than just the minerals industry and mining, it’s about industry in general. It’s about businesses and commercial outfits who are doing more and more long-term planning as we want them to be. You’re making capital investments, you’re looking for the long-term. A mine isn’t something you can open and close in six months. Obviously, you’re looking over a longer period of time. Five years is, for me, giving a bit more stability and predictability and drawing in investors and building the partnerships and planning for your horizon.

What we want as a country is to demonstrate that Canada is a good place to invest, a good partner to have in your business, and that means listening to your concerns and responding to them and that’s where we’re giving more predictability on the METC, where we’re highlighting the stability that comes with the trade deals we’ve signed.

You’re obviously an international industry with operations around the world and in Canada that is exporting around the world.

The fact that Canada is now the only G7 country with a free trade deal with every other G7 country — we obviously have access to the United States, we have access to Europe, we have access to the growing economies of Asia. We are extremely well positioned as a country to continue to engage in the global economy and making sure we’re competitive within that is really important.

So, the METC for five years is a piece of it.

The accelerated capital cost allowance as well that allows you to write off capital investments in machinery and equipment a lot more quickly is the kind of things that we’re doing to incentivize you to invest in Canada and to know that we are your partners right now and for the long term.

GM: And met with such enthusiasm by our members and delegates in the aftermath. When you ask for three years and you get five, you can only be happy. So, thank you.

The new norm in the world economy is one of cycles, pressures, challenges, and competition. That’s no more true than in the minerals and minerals exploration industry. Commodities go up, commodities go down. We all check gold prices, we members in this room check gold prices, nickel, copper.

JT: I was asked about the price of gold on my way into the conference. “Prime Minister, any predictions on the price of gold?”

I’m like, “I’m not going anywhere near that question.”

But yeah, I can see it’s a concern. It was about US$1,288.50 an ounce. There’s a 50% chance it will go up.

GM: But the mining industry is such a key contributor to Canada’s economy. So, 5% of GDP which is actually a huge number in dollars, it’s about 90 billion Canadian dollars — in fact, a little more. About 20% of Canada’s domestic exports and a huge key contributor to royalties and taxes.

Not too many industries brag about the taxes they pay, but we do.

The mining industry is a key creator of jobs, and that’s especially true in Canada’s north and in the remote regions.

On the topic of competitiveness, what can Canada’s mineral industry do with your government to continue enhancing our role?

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