Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Minister Oliver to CICC: “Israel has a Firm Friend and Strong Partner in Canada”

Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, The Honourable Joe Oliver, was the keynote speaker on August 23 at a special luncheon held by the Canada Israel Chamber of Commerce.

The program, entitled, “Canada and Israel Energy Partnership and Free Trade Renewal”, was held at the offices of one of Toronto’s top business law firms, Gowlings Toronto.

Among topics covered in Minister Oliver’s address, were his weeklong economic mission to Israel and the resulting new energy agreement and possible expansion of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

On the Minister’s trip he met with top Israeli energy sector officials, his counterpart, Uzi Landau, Israel’s minister of energy and water resources, Shalom Simhon, Israel’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He participated in three roundtables with business leaders and oil and gas industry executives. The minister visited the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa and discussed its research in nanotechnology, aerospace and chemical engineering and its existing academic partnerships with Canadian universities. There he also signed a signed a new energy agreement that has the potential to massively benefit both countries economically.

“We [Canada and Israel) do have a lot in common, including the core values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, a focus on education, a tradition of helping the needy within our borders and abroad, a profound belief in justice, an openness to diversity and high levels of immigration from around the world and a willingness to defend our core values and interests,” Minister Oliver told the audience of over one-hundred. “As you know, Canada, under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is proud of our close relationship with Israel — politically, socially and economically. We’ve watched with admiration as generations of Israelis have fulfilled the promise of the “miracle in the desert.” Many people are now talking about Israel’s “economic miracle.” Despite the global economic downturn and the fiscal changes faced by the European Union, the OECD is predicting its economic growth will be 3.2% this year and 3.6% in the next.”

During Israeli Prime Minister’s trip to Ottawa earlier this year, Minister Oliver had the opportunity of attending a working lunch hosted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu commented on the close relationship our two countries share,” explained Oliver. “He also expressed his appreciation for our government’s steadfast support of Israel in its battle against international terrorism, its struggle for fair treatment at the United Nations and other international organizations and its search for peace. So why, he asked, don’t we do more business together. Just a few years ago if I told someone I was going to go to Israel to talk about their energy resources I would get a blank stare. You all know the complaint that Moses spent 40 years wandering in the desert to settle in the only country in the Middle East without oil. Well it looks like he was not wrong after all, although it certainly took a while for the miraculous discoveries to prove him right. Mind you David Ben Gurion said that in Israel to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”

Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan fields are among the world’s largest offshore natural gas discoveries in the last decade. And some estimate that Israel’s on land oil shale in the Northern Negev, currently undergoing tests by Israel Energy Initiatives, are equivalent to 250 billion barrels of oil. This potentially ranks it among the largest reserve in the Middle East, although the technology is still being developed and the economics are not proven.

Both reserves are located in undisputed territory, ignoring those who dispute the country’s very existence.

“The new gas discovery hold the promise of providing energy security to Israel, an imperative that was highlighted when last April Egypt cut off the natural gas pumped from its pipeline in the Sinai, a source which represented 40% of its electricity supply,” said Minister Oliver. “The newly discovered reserves also present a wonderful opportunity for Israel’s economy and job creation. Interestingly they also present the country with a ‘good’ problem, how much to keep in strategic reserves and how much to export to say Europe. Apparently the Tzemach Committee’s final report will make it somewhat easier for companies to export gas. So there are geopolitical implications at play. Still, we must be careful not to get ahead of the facts and, to my knowledge, Israel has not received an invitation to join OPEC.”

Minister Oliver wrapped up his address by stressing importance of the close ties shared by Canada and the Jewish state, as well as the ongoing efforts of the Canada Israel Chamber of Commerce.

“As you know, Israel has a firm friend and strong partner in Canada,” said Minister Oliver.

“Over the years, our two countries have been close allies in many ways – from the bonds of friends and family, to close political relations spanning decades, to ties of commerce. And your Chamber has been a powerful engine behind these efforts. As our Government looks to deepen our trade ties to Israel, we’ll continue to count on your vision, advice and support. Our partnership with Israel holds great potential for both our countries. We are determined to seize that potential, for the benefit of Canadians and Israelis alike.”

Article originally posted here.