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Saturday, August 23, 2014

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Ontario minister in Israel on trade mission

Tags: Israel
Eric Hoskins speaking at Mekorot. [Sasson Tiram Photograph]

TEL AVIV — Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s economic development, trade and employment minister, was in Israel last week on a multipurpose trade mission that included attending the prestigious Water Technology and Environmental Control Exhibition and Conference (WATEC) Israel 2013.

WATEC is a leading event for the global water industry that brings together international business and government leaders to discuss water solutions and showcase technological advancements. 

“The world is here, 14,000 delegates at WATEC,” Hoskins told The CJN as to why it was important for him to bring a trade mission to the Tel Aviv conference.

“Israel and Canada are great friends, so I’m here to build on that friendship and translate it into even more co-operation and trade and looking for opportunities to collaborate.”

Israel may be a country of little water, but its water technology sector is among the world’s best.

“Israel has a world-class water and waste water sector and in Ontario, one of our strongest emerging sectors is water. We refer to it as the blue economy. So it’s a natural area for co-operation,” Hoskins told The CJN in his last media interview before returning to Toronto.

While Hoskins had great praise for Israel’s water and waste-water technologies, his real message was that together with Ontario’s water technology prowess, Canada and Israel could combine forces and help other countries in need.

“I know Mekorot [Israel’s national water company] and Ontario share this vision to help other countries. We have opportunities to join forces to provide water solutions to third countries that need water. No one country can solve this for the world, so we have to come together,” he said.

Real Tech, an award-winning Canadian company that has developed a product line of portable and real-time water quality analyzers and Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, offer one example of shared technologies.

Utilizing Real Tech’s innovative, yet cost effective, continuous spectrum analyzers combined with the statistical analysis capabilities of Mekorot’s water quality and models departments, the two firms are mid-way through a two-year project to develop a model for automated identification of irregular water-quality events.

“Real Tech’s partnership with Israel’s national water company, Merokot, is a perfect example of how Ontario innovation and expertise is making a difference around the world. Ontario has some 900 innovative water-technology companies providing solutions at home and abroad. Through organizations like Ontario’s WaterTAP, our government is taking a proactive role in helping these companies succeed on the world stage,” Hoskins said.

“Before my trip this time, I didn’t have an appreciation for how much progress and how much leadership exists in this tiny country in waste-water management. This year, more Israelis will get their water from desalination than they will from other sources,” Hoskins said

“I went to a waste-water management facility and understanding how there’s a deficit of water, but it’s made up in Israel because you’re able to effectively purify it and use it for agricultural purposes and also replenish your aquifers. It’s amazing.”

This wasn’t Hoskins’ first trip to Israel, and he said he was more than happy to be back. While he had time to find new food favourites – falafel and Israeli wine –he said his schedule was too packed to find time for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea, even if his hotel was on the beach. He did, however, manage a few jogs along Tel Aviv’s promenade, which he said he loved.

In addition to the WATEC conference, Hoskins met with the chief scientist at Israel’s Commerce and Trade Ministry, and he visited the Israeli non-profit organizations Tmura and Access Israel.

Tmura is a venture fund that receives equity donations from Israeli and Israel-related high-tech companies and allocates the proceeds from sales of that equity to education- and youth-related charities in Israel. Google’s recent purchase of Waze generated $1.5 million for the community.

Access Israel is a non-profit organization that promotes accessibility and strives to make Israel a place where people with various disabilities are integrated into society.

“There’s a model that I think we can apply in Ontario in terms of the educational system and advocacy, to learn about the work being done on accessibility. I didn’t expect to see that. It was a nice surprise, partly because it has given me some nice ideas to implement in Ontario,” he said.

“There’s a lot of room for growth. We’ve got this tremendous friendship, and now we’ve got an obligation, if not an opportunity, to build on that friendship in terms of strengthening economic ties and co-operation, and not just bilaterally but multilaterally as well.”

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