(Ottawa) The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, gets excited when he consults the list of projects and private investments that have come to Canada over the last 12 months. There is also no shortage of strong images to translate into words what this represents for the country.

“We won the Stanley Cup of investments in 2023! Let’s be proud of it,” exclaimed the minister in an interview with La Presse, still overflowing with energy despite the busy schedule he imposes on himself and on his team of close collaborators and on everyone. of his ministry, despite a very eventful parliamentary session.

Sitting in the small conference room adjoining his ministerial office and which offers an appreciable view of Parliament Hill, François-Philippe Champagne lists in one breath the projects totaling billions of dollars in investments in sectors he considers key. for the prosperity of the country.

Certainly, these “generational” investments saw the light of day thanks to consultation between governments in Quebec and Ontario, among others. But if Ottawa decided to loosen its purse string to convince Northvolt to establish itself in Saint-Basile-le-Grand and McMasterville, to ensure that Stellantis modernizes its factories in Windsor and to persuade Volkswagen to settle in St. Thomas is because it had to be done, he said, to attract major players and revive an auto industry in steep decline.

“2023 is the year of major investments. Northvolt is the largest private investment in the history of Quebec. We brought Quebec into the automobile industry through the front door. This is unheard of. It is important. The major supply chains are the automobile industry. This is what was missing in Quebec,” explained the minister.

To this overview, the minister adds investments of nearly $9 billion from Dow Chemicals, confirmed in November, to build a net-zero emissions ethylene plant in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Ottawa’s financial boost amounts to $400 million in the form of clean investment tax credits – a measure announced in the last federal budget.

He also points to the recent decision by Australian mining giant BHP to invest $6.4 billion to build the second phase of a potash mine at Jansen, 140 kilometers to the east. is from Saskatoon. This BHP mine is set to become the largest potash mine in the world.

“These are investments whose impact will be measured over several generations. When some of the largest companies in the world choose Canada to make some of the biggest investments in their history, it is because they have confidence in Canada,” said the minister.

He noted that Canada has historical strengths, including stability, predictability and the rule of law. But to this list, we must add the qualified workforce, existing ecosystems, proximity to major markets, the abundance of critical minerals and green energy – the “dividend of Mr. [Robert] Bourassa”.

The increase in federal investments to attract large foreign companies has provoked a debate in recent months over the advisability of using public funds for this purpose. Why not use these billions to strengthen the health system, for example, or repair our roads?

On this subject, Minister Champagne believes that the choice was clear. As Ottawa faced the decline of Canada’s auto industry, the federal government had to seize an opportunity that doesn’t come around every six months.

“We had to seize the opportunity because the window was 12 to 18 months. Once Volkswagen decides to make its largest factory outside of Germany and chooses Canada, there will not be another one in North America,” argued the minister, asserting that it is the same logic that applies to Northvolt, which opted for Quebec and not California.

“We had to seize these opportunities. If they had not been seized, these factories would have gone to the southern United States. We had to seize the opportunity because in six months, all these decisions will be made. A 10 billion factory, you don’t build two in North America. »

In an interview, Mr. Champagne fleshes out his argument. Without the intervention of Ottawa and the provinces, the entire Canadian economy would have suffered, as well as the financing of social programs on which Canadians depend.

“Look at what’s happening south of the border in the United States with the IRA. There is a new economic theory. Governments must be part of the equation because ultimately, the risk was to become economically poorer. »

The successful seduction campaign led by Minister François-Philippe Champagne among large companies is also making people envious… in Washington. A few weeks ago, the Politico site devoted a rave six-page text to him. The title of the report said it all. “How Trudeau’s Salesman-in-Chief Outwitted America.”