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Israel’s economic success in recent years has caught the eyes and imaginations
of international players interested in Israeli investors, research and
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Rob Norris, the minister of advanced education, employment and
immigration of the booming Canadian province of Saskatchewan, was in Israel last
week, holding meetings with government and business representatives in an effort
to foster and facilitate new partnerships in the fields of innovation,
technology and sciences.
During his weeklong stay, Norris met with
National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau and Minorities Affairs Minister
Avishay Braverman and paid visits to leading academic institutions, including
the Weizmann Institute of Science in Reheovot, the Technion- Israel Institute of
Technology in Haifa and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
central Canada, the Province of Saskatchewan spans nearly 600,000 square
kilometers, an area roughly 30 times the size of Israel. The province enjoys a
wealth of natural resources, chief among them: oil, potash, natural gas and
uranium. The region also possesses the most arable land of all of Canada’s
provinces, growing 45 percent of the country’s grain.
In recent years
Saskatchewan has enjoyed an economic surge enabling it to pay back 40% of its
debt, invest heavily in infrastructure and offer a series of progressive
policies in the fields of education, labor retention and immigration.
province has made sure to take advantage of its natural resources, but it isn’t
willing to depend solely upon them and aims to expand its capabilities in
knowledge-intensive fields, according to Norris.
“In order to do that we
need partnerships. Innovation cannot excel in isolation.
We foster a
broad range of relationships already, but we think that there are significant
opportunities that can arise from ties with Israel,” he said.
that his visits to Israel’s leading academic institutions left him impressed
with their high levels of innovation and commercialization and said he saw
substantial areas of potential cooperation with Saskatchewanian institutions and
businesses, with the most obvious being in the fields of biological sciences and
Perhaps Saskatchewan’s biggest deficiency lies in its relatively
With only a million people spread out across the
province, 300,000 in its two major cities, Regina (the province’s capital) and
Saskatoon, and the rest in 200 rural municipalities, it simply doesn’t have the
manpower to help it reach its economic potential.
Norris explained that
the province has gone to great efforts in the last few years to draw in more
people. Its policies, which include advanced job training, work to citizenship
programs and aggressive recruitment efforts, seek to both bring back residents
who have left and introduce new immigrants from other provinces and other
Norris said that in the last year alone, 11,000 people
immigrated to Saskatchewan.
The top six countries producing immigrants to
Saskatchewan are the Philippines, China, Ukraine, India, Pakistan and Iraq,
according to Norris. He also said that there was some interest in immigration
from Israel and that the province looked forward to receiving people who are
well educated, energetic and who have an entrepreneurial attitude.
face a talent challenge.
There are currently 7,000 open jobs in
Saskatchewan. An aging local population of baby boomers and a growing economy
means we need more people in order to make sure we are well positioned to
diversify and reinvigorate both our economy and our communities,” Norris
During his visit, Norris attended a meeting with members of the
Israel-Canada Chambers of commerce and industry, where he spoke about venture
capital investment opportunities and the potential for future
“On both sides there is room for activity, but there is very
little familiarity. I hope I was able to capture the imagination of some
investors and that the visit will open the door to future projects,” he
Norris said that the small, but well established, Jewish community
in Saskatchewan has the potential to play a role in fostering business relations
through person-to-person ties. His deputy, Clare Isman, who is Jewish,
accompanied him on the visit.