This week, Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) traveled to Ottawa and Montréal for the New York-Canada Relations Task Force for a tour organized by the Office of the Consul-General of Canada. Jones is the chairperson of the Task Force which was formed by the New York State Assembly last year. Other members of the Task Force joined him for the tour including Assemblymembers Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Queens), Marianne Buttenschon (D-Utica), Simcha Eichenstein (D-Brooklyn), and Scott Gray (R-Watertown).
In Ottawa, Jones and his colleagues met the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Morrison from Global Affairs Canada, Canada’s equivalent agency to the United States State Department, where they discussed immigration policy and staffing at the border. The following morning, the Task Force started their day with a meeting with leaders at the Business Council of Canada including Jack Hughes, Senior Vice President of Planning and Operations, Robert Asselin, Senior Vice President of Policy, and John Dickerman, Vice President of United States Relations, to discuss the mutually beneficial business relationship between the United States and Canada. In the afternoon, the assemblymembers met with leadership from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce including Gaphel Kongsta, Director of International Policy, Catherine Fortin LeFaivre, Vice President of Strategic Policy and Global Partnerships, and Matthew Holmes, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations, to continue the conversation about the importance of the trade relationship between the two countries that must not be taken for granted.
The Task Force also held important meetings with the Parliament’s Standing Committee on International Trade as well as the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group. Honorable Judy Sgro, Chair, Kyle Seeback, Vice-Chair, and Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay, Vice Chair, as well as members of the Standing Committee on International Trade, met with Jones and his colleagues to discuss their role in the trade relationship between United States and Canada and the importance of making sure that state and national policies do not unintentionally harm this relationship, which has been impacted by Buy America legislation. During the meeting with the Canada-United States Parliamentary Group, the assemblymembers discussed strengthening the relationship between the New York State Legislature and Parliament, and to continue this conversation in the future by creating an Action Sheet.
The Task Force continued their tour in Montréal to learn more about the city and Québec. The assemblymembers had introductory meetings with Éric Dequenne, Assistant Deputy Minister for Relations with the Americas, Economic Affairs and Strategic Intelligence, as well as Martine Hébert, Québec Delegate General in New York, before they started a full day of meetings. In the morning, Jones and his colleagues learned more about economic development in Montréal and the rising of the tech industry in the city during a discussion with leaders from Montréal International including Alexandre Lagarde, Vice-President, Foreign Investments, Émilie Bombardier, Director, Business Development, Foreign Direct Investments – Americas, and Marie-Soleil Hince Cloutier, Project Manager, East America - Foreign Investments. After the meeting with Montreal International, the Task Force met with leadership from CDPQ Global, an investment and pension agency, including Chantal Gagnon, Director of Regulatory Affairs and Michel Léveillée, Director of Sustainability where they learned about the important investments they have made in United States infrastructure, as well as their groundbreaking work in sustainability.
In the afternoon, Jones and his colleagues met with members and leaders from the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ) to continue the dialogue about the business relationship between the United States and Canada. FCCQ represents more than 130 chambers of commerce across the province and 1,100 corporate members, with many of them doing business with the United States.
The Task Force ended their tour with a meeting with representatives from the United States Observatory at the Chaire Raoul-Dandurand en études stratégiques et diplomatiques at the Université du Québec à Montréal, where they discussed their research in American politics and the Observatory’s goal to gain a better understanding of the relationship between the United States and Canada.
“While the North Country understands the importance of our relationship with Canada, this friendship is often taken for granted by the rest of New York,” said Assemblyman Billy Jones. “That is why I asked the Speaker of the Assembly to create the New York-Canada Relations Task Force so that my colleagues can better understand this critical relationship. It was a whirlwind tour but in a good way- my colleagues and I absorbed so much knowledge about the trade and business relationship between the two nations, immigration and border policy, and Canada’s mining industry that we will bring back to Albany. I want to thank the General Consul of Canada for organizing this tour and for the hospitality of everyone in Ottawa and Montréal. This is just the beginning of the Task Force’s work to strengthen the mutually beneficial relationship between New York and Canada and I look forward to continuing this dialogue in the future.”