Friday, 28 October 2011

TORONTO


I was in Toronto last week to attend and speak at the Toronto Economic Forum.
This two day event dealt with the major economic problems of our time, with particular emphasis on the impact they have on cities.
I shared the platform with Ted Menzies, Minister for State for Finance, in the present  Conservative  Party  Government of Canada. He is from Alberta.
He told me that one of the big changes taking place in Canada is the movement of economic influence towards western provinces, like Alberta, which have vast resources of oil and gas. Richer provinces transfer resources to poorer ones in Canada, and the pattern of these transfers is changing, as some provinces become more prosperous and others relatively less so.
 Canada has come through the financial crisis well, because its banks were prudently managed and regulated.  At Federal level, the budget deficit situation is under control, but there are significant problems in the two big provinces, Ontario and Quebec. Although the Liberal party of Canada has suffered badly in the recent Federal elections, being reduced to third place, it has done well in recent provincial elections in Ontario and continues to govern there.
At the Forum, I was delighted to meet longstanding friends of mine, Roy McClaren, who was Trade Minister in a Liberal Government, Mike Wilson, who was Finance Minister in a Progressive Conservative Government, and John Manley, who held several portfolios including Foreign Affairs in Liberal Governments. Mike Wilson also served as Canadian Ambassador to the United States while I was EU Ambassador there so we got to know one another well.
I gave an interview to CBC, the main Canadian television network.
In my speech to the Forum, I explained that the euro was more than just a financial arrangement, but was a political commitment to a more united and cohesive Europe, that would capable of keeping peace internally and of representing European interests globally. A failure of the euro was unthinkable, I said, because it would open Europe to becoming a playground for a battle for strategic influence between external powers.  That would eventually create huge risks for the peace of Europe.  
I emphasised the Ireland was interested in more Canadian investment, and was an ideal gateway for Canadian firms to the European market. Already, Ireland was home to 9 of the world’s top 10 internet companies in the world, 9 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies, and 15 of the top 25 medical devices companies.  In addition, it had a highly developed international financial services industry and many of the Canadian based banks, whose senior representatives I met at the Forum,  had  substantial operations in Ireland.

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