Saskatchewan official visits Israel to draw investors

Canadian minister Rob Norris hopes to foster new partnerships in the fields of innovation, technology and sciences.

Israel’s economic success in recent years has caught the eyes and imaginations of international players interested in Israeli investors, research and talent.
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.
RELATED:Canada boycotts racism conference that targeted IsraelVideo: Get Your Geek On
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.
Located in 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.
The 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.
Norris 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 biotech.
Perhaps Saskatchewan’s biggest deficiency lies in its relatively small population.
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 countries.
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.
“We 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 said.
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 cooperation.
“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 said.
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.