Premier McGuinty, Ontario and Israel: A Flourishing Relationship

Shalom Life exclusive interview with the Premier of Ontario on his visit to Israel, the relationship between his province and Israel, and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

Published: March 18th 2011
in News » Local

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty
Premier McGuinty and Israeli President Shimon Peres

In May, 2010, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty made an important investment in the future, while visiting one of the oldest cities on the globe during a trade mission.


During his visit to Jerusalem where he met with Israel’s prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu, the Premier’s focus was squarely on a tomorrow that includes green energy projects, clean water and renewable energy. Today, according to the Premier, this just may be the start of a beautiful friendship between Israel and Ontario.


“We’re continuing to build on the relationships we established on our trade mission,” Premier McGuinty told Shalom Life. “For example, when I met with President Shimon Peres, he was very positive about the idea of Ontario and Israel striking a new partnership — one based on scientific research into the brain with a view to commercializing the results of that research. Israel could choose any partner for a venture of this nature – but they’re choosing us. The Ontario Brain Institute is now moving forward on this idea and working with counterparts in Israel to begin establishing a virtual brain institute.”


McGuinty is also buoyed by the fact that Israeli pharmaceutical company, Teva, is moving ahead with its plans to invest in Ontario. The $56 million investment in their Stouffville, Ontario location will retain 182 jobs and create 20 new positions.


“We’ll continue building on the progress we made during Ontario’s trade mission to Israel to deepen our relationship, collaborate on medical breakthroughs and improve the quality of life for both our peoples — and for all humanity,” explained the Premier.


One factor that clearly impressed Premier McGuinty is Israel’s economy, one of, if not the only economy to flourish during the recent global recession.


“There is much Ontario can learn from working with such a dynamic and entrepreneurial people,” he said. “Israel’s economy has fared much better than most during the global economic recession. Ontario families have also worked hard to overcome economic challenges — our province has now recovered 90.9 per cent of the jobs lost during the recession — an achievement that also stands out in the world. One of the things I admire about Israel is its commitment to curing disease and building a stronger economy at the same time. That’s one of the reasons I led Ontario’s Trade Mission to Israel, which was focused on life sciences. Israel’s life sciences sector has grown from 186 companies before 1996 to over 1,000 by 2009. Ontario has 850 companies of its own. We signed several agreements that will make it easier for some of our best minds in Israel and Ontario to collaborate. Israel is especially strong in commercializing research — moving research ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace. Ontario could certainly learn lessons from their success.”


Despite the cultural differences and vast distance separating Ontario and Israel, the Premier, noted some important commonalities between the two regions.


“We share a commitment to education,” he said. “Israel has more scientists and engineers per capita than almost anywhere else in the world. And Ontario has one of the world’s most highly educated workforces. We’re very interested in how Israel achieves its success, and Israeli ministers were interested in the progress we’ve made in education. Of course, Ontario’s greatest advantage in partnering with Israel is the human connections. Our Jewish community is 200,000 strong, and there are 20,000 Canadians who are living here in Israel, active participants in their society and economy. Together, we can build an even stronger record of achievement for both Israel and Ontario." 


Asked for his thoughts about anti-Israeli groups participating in festivals that receive provincial funding, such as was the case at Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade last summer, Premier McGuinty is clear.


“Ontario is successful because of its diversity and cultural richness,” he explains. “We all agree that racism has no place here. Tolerance, respect and understanding are values that have always defined our province. That’s why we need to work continually to promote understanding. That being said, we can’t permit racial intolerance or discrimination of any sort. An attack on one of our citizens is an attack on all of us. That is why we’ve invested $1.35 million in 23 projects to help bring together communities targeted by hate crimes, increase awareness and encourage communities to develop ways to address hate crimes and the needs of victims. We know there is always more to be done, and we will continue to work with our community partners to help ensure that all Ontarians can live free from hate, intolerance, and discrimination.”

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