30th November 2011 Ottawa, Canada

A Maritime blitz

There’s a guest video on the blog today – Jonathan Dart, our Consul-General in Toronto and the head of the UK Trade and Industry network in Canada.

We’ve being doing a bit of a blitz in the Maritime Provinces. Jonathan’s been at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, talking tidal energy and marine research; and then in Frederickton, New Brunswick, discussing adaptation to climate change; and UK expertise in using methane gas from landfill for energy, rather than flaring it. Have a listen.

The link is UK-Canada cooperation on science and technology, under the auspices of the innovative and far reaching Joint Declaration, endorsed by the Prime Ministers of Canada and the UK when David Cameron visited Ottawa in September.

There’s a staggering amount we can do together: from blue-skies science in physics to sharing technologies: nano, aerospace, automotive, regenerative medicine, carbon sequestration and a range of clean technologies. They’re all in their different ways multipliers, of skills, jobs,and the knowledge economy which is increasingly the last refuge of economies of our relative size. We must move up-market, or we’ll get jostled out of markets. Going up-market means education, investment in top-line infrastructure and skills, and in the case of the UK and Canada, mutually beneficial cooperation.

On the cooperation, and Maritimes blitz theme, I was simultaneously in Nova Scotia for the Halifax Security Forum. The brainchild of Canada’s Defence Minister, Peter MacKay, it featured debate on a range of brain-wrenching issues – a nuclear Iran, the “Arab Spring”, the crisis of the Eurozone, the US “strategic pivot” to Asia, the role and future of NATO – and a global cast: US Senators McCain and Udall, Ehud Barak of Israel, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, British Minister for International Security Strategy Gerald Howarth – plus the Canadian defence establishment, from the Minister and his Deputy to many senior commanders and public servants. There was also a lively mix of academics, journalists, commentators and the odd diplomat (not, as my critics insist, very odd).

This made a sparky mix. We solved nothing – why take the challenge out of the future? – but floated a lot of ideas and perceptions, and took the numbers of a lot of people worth talking to twice.

And with my Minister, I visited the Irving Halifax Shipyards. The rejoicing here following the award of the contract for future warships was universal. It was fascinating to walk the ground, see them cutting steel on the Hero Class of small offshore patrol vessels – the Private Robertson VC was on the stocks, painted in Coast Guard livery and almost ready for launch – and then visualise the quantum leap from these to future frigates. The security in employment for a generation, and the leap in technology, are both huge. We’re doing something similar for the Royal Navy in the UK, and it’s hard not to ponder possible synergies. We’ll see, but the prospect of the RN and the Royal Canadian Navy remaining combat-ready allies for the next generation and beyond is comforting.

I’ll return to this in the future, but will ponder the war of 1812 next!

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