Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today as part of her weeklong business mission to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
According to a statement released by Wynne’s office, the two explored opportunities for two-way collaboration between Ontario and Israel “to strengthen ties between our regions and make them both more prosperous.” With an economy larger than that of most European countries, Ontario is an R&D base for seven of the 10 largest tech companies in the world. One of Wynne’s goals has been to elevate the province’s prominence on the world stage.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu and I discussed ways that we can foster new Israel-Ontario partnerships… to work on some of the most pressing and important issues of our time, from cancer to climate change.”
The reference to climate change came perhaps in the wake of criticism back home over her controversial new Climate Change Action Plan, which was leaked to the Globe and Mail on Monday.
Unlike most of her trip, Wynne spent Wednesday, Day Three of the mission, based in Israel’s capital. Besides Netanyahu, she also met with former Israeli president Shimon Peres.
The itinerary included two non-business-related stops: a morning visit to Yad Vashem and an afternoon tour of the Kotel and the Western Wall Plaza.
At Yad Vashem, Wynne laid a wreath and paused for a moment of silence. “Looking at the mountains of shoes from the victims of Nazi concentration camps – dress shoes, work shoes, children’s shoes – I was reminded of all the individual lives and families that were affected by this atrocity,” she said.
In the guestbook, she wrote, “May the blindness of hate never again touch so many people… It is only through love, tolerance and mutual respect that we can shine a light to keep the darkness at bay.”
Around these more reflective events, the tour’s breakneck pace continued, with Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signings with Hebrew University, Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist, a meeting with Eli Groner, director general of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, and deals involving the University of Toronto and OCAD University. Other education-related MOUs have already been signed involving McMaster and York.
Major meetings earlier in the week included a sit-down between Dino Trevisani, president of IBM Canada, and IBM Israel, who signed an MOU to collaborate on innovation and commercialization.
Along with Canadian Ambassador Vivian Bercovici, Wynne also spoke at a networking event in Tel Aviv to support the International Women’s Forum, promoting gender equality and equal representation for women in politics and business.
On Thursday, she and delegates will head to Ramallah and Bethlehem to announce deals in the public and private sectors within the PA. On Friday, she will wrap up her trip with a visit to Haifa’s Technion, which veteran MPP Monte Kwinter referred to earlier in the week as a “candy store” of investment and collaboration opportunities in the high-tech and other fields.
On Monday, Wynne received the President’s Award from Tel Aviv University for promoting tolerance, inclusion and civil discourse.
Israeli media have touted the visit as putting over $87 million worth of deals on the table. Noting that agreements signed on this trip will provide jobs and economic opportunities within Ontario for years to come, Wynne said that, “Working together on the world’s high-tech challenges will ensure that we remain at the forefront of developing cutting-edge technology.”