Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has laid out the broad brushstrokes of her upcoming trade mission to Israel, and the emphasis will be on mutual areas in high-tech, life sciences and information technology.
Wynne will also build on past partnerships with Israel, she told reporters April 6 after touring the Peter Gilgan Centre for Learning and Research at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.
Wynne announced she would visit Israel last June, when she was presented the Words & Deeds Leadership Award by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
The May 15-20 mission will take Wynne and leaders of some 20 Canadian companies to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as Ramallah and Bethlehem in the West Bank.
There’s no word yet on whether she will meet with Israeli or Palestinian political leaders.
“Israel is a priority market for Ontario for trade and research,” Wynne said. “In 2015, two-way trade between Ontario and Israel was valued at over $900 million, making Israel one of Ontario’s largest trading partners in the Middle East.”
The premier will meet business leaders, innovators and government officials to strengthen ties and encourage new investments and partnerships in Ontario, said a press release from her office.
“I’m very excited about it,” Wynne said.
“Ontario and Israel share many common priorities,” she added. “Both regions are hubs for R&D, for ICT [information and communication technology] and venture capital, and both are interested in developing strong, competitive business environments that spur innovation and growth.
“I think that innovation spark is very important.”
Wynne was joined by representatives from the Ontario Brain Institute, which was kick-started following a 2010 meeting in Israel between then-Israeli president Shimon Peres and former premier Dalton McGuinty.
The institute is a “perfect example of partnership,” she said.
Wynne also cited the Ontario-Israel Memorandum of Understanding, signed in 2005 with each side committing about $1 million to facilitate a dozen joint economic ventures.
The MOU has helped connect more than 680 Ontario and Israeli researchers, generate 15 industry-led R&D projects and leverage more than $16 million in outside funding, she noted.
Both jurisdictions are leaders in life sciences, a sector that generated more than $38 billion in revenue in Ontario in 2012, Wynne’s office pointed out.
“This mission will be a great opportunity for Ontario to build on its existing relationship with Israel, which is a strong one, and to find new ways for the two regions to work together across a range of research and innovation sectors,” she said.
In response to a question from The CJN on whether she will bring any political messages to the region, Wynne said: “The message I will be bringing to Israel is an economic one. It is that Ontario is open and willing to find more ways to partner, and we consider Israel a very close friend and trading partner, and look forward to strengthening that relationship.”
Accompanying Wynne at her announcement was DJ Schneeweiss, Israel’s consul general in Toronto, who said his country is “very excited by this visit not only because it represents the strong friendship between Ontario and Israel but also because it will allow both Israel and Ontario to showcase and advance strong and mutually beneficial trade.”
Schneeweiss pointed out to reporters that Israel is roughly the size of Lake Ontario.
“Nevertheless, there are immense opportunities for genuinely valuable collaboration between us and for both sides, based on life sciences, water, information technology, cyber security and many other areas. We have no doubt that the more both sides invest in Ontario-Israel ties, the bigger the return on investment will be for the citizens of both societies and beyond.”
“The business delegates are still being finalized,” said Gurvinder Singh, Wynne’s press secretary. “As with other similar missions, business delegates will pay their own way.”
Sara Lefton, the Greater Toronto Area vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, will be on the trip, CIJA said, while B’nai Brith Canada confirmed that its CEO, Michael Mostyn, will also go.