Justin Trudeau Returns to Brampton to Talk Science


It appears Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quite likes coming to Brampton, as he stopped by the Magna International Inc. plant in the city to chat a little bit about innovation, technology and his government's investment in artificial intelligence (AI).

Trudeau made an appearance in Brampton to launch the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, a strategy that Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey says "will promote collaboration between Canada's main centres of expertise, including the Toronto-Brampton-Waterloo Innovation Super Corridor."

At the event, Trudeau highlighted the investments being made in AI in the recently released 2017 budget, talked about how well Canada is performing when it comes to mastering innovation and technology and emphasized the importance of keeping talent in the country.

"Deep AI (or Deep Learning) is an area of research that has the potential to truly transform the way we live and work," Trudeau said. "That's because artificial intelligence is what's known as a platform technology. In the same way that electricity revolutionized manufacturing and the microprocessor reinvented how we gather and analyze and communicate information, AI will cut across nearly every industry in Canada. It will shape the world that our kids and grandkids grow up in. We can either be a part of that and help steer its direction and take advantage of the good, middle-class jobs it will create. Or we can watch other countries step in."

As for what AI is, it's associated with some big name (and exciting) projects—often self-driving cars. AI also has other real world implications and can, for example, be used to help detect early stage and aggressive skin cancers.

At a time where people rely on mobile devices so much, investment in AI does seem worthwhile (in fact, it would be inadvisable to neglect technology by failing to invest in it on a federal level).

"Deep AI sounds futuristic - it is," says Trudeau. "But it's also an area where Canada is recognized as a global leader in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton. What we need to do now is make sure we don't lose out on the competitive advantage that we already have and that's where last week's budget comes into play."

Last week, the federal government announced plans to invest $125 million over the next five years to build and support a Deep AI research community in Canada. According to Trudeau, that investment will accomplish four key things:

  • It will support AI institutes in the three cities where deep AI already has a strong presence (Toronto and GTA, Edmonton and Montreal)

  • It will encourage more research by establishing Deep AI chairs at Canadian universities across the country.

  • It will support a national training program in Deep AI.

  • It will encourage greater collaboration between researchers and the broader communities, including taking a critical look at the economic, social and public policy implications of Deep AI.

"These investments will ensure that Canada can recruit, train and more importantly, retain the top tier talent needed to secure Canada's leadership in Deep AI," he says. "In the years to come, we'll see this leadership pay dividends."

While the government didn't announce investments in specific Brampton companies, the site of the talk made sense—especially considering the fact that Magna is the largest auto part supplier in North America (and one that has spent $850 million on new equipment in Canadian plants).

Coupled with the fact that Brampton is set to welcome a new university with a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) focus, it's appropriate to announce technological investments in a city that's aggressively marketing itself as an up and coming tech hub.

It'll be interesting to see how the government nurtures AI in Brampton and beyond going forward.

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