Weekly Commentary  

Students, staff and Texans

Ever wonder how your tax dollars are at work on local post secondary campuses? I had two responses to that question last week.

First was a meeting with students at the UBC Okanagan campus. They had done their homework. I remember my days on campus way back before cars were invented. I have to say, these students were different than my friends and me.

They were prepared, articulate and strategic. They had some key 'asks' and knew how to present them. Not sure who trained them in "How To Get What You Want Without A Big Fight", but I can tell you they passed the course.

They were right up to speed on a range of educational, environmental and social issues.  And by the time the meeting was over they made sure I was up to speed too.

Later in the day I met with Allan Coyle, Jim Hamilton and Donna Lomas from Okanagan College. Talk about being up to speed. You know that multi-million infrastructure announcement we made a couple months ago for a new building?

Let me tell you, these folks are planning a 'one of a kind' facility. Aside from its prime purpose of meeting the needs of students, this building will be an international attraction in and of itself. If all goes as planned it will be a totally self sustaining structure.

That means that not only will it produce its own electricity, it will be able to put any excess energy back into the regional grid to power up your lights too. The roof will have an array of solar panels complete with surrounding walkways where local projects and experiments can be conducted. And all of this within existing budgets. Keep in mind, all of this world class leading edge stuff is all being initiated by our own local students and staff. That means once again, we are on the world map for yet another bundle of reasons.

Talking about the world map, I was able to tell the Dallas- Fort Worth Council on World Affairs a whole lot of reasons why Canada is a world leader in terms of innovation and opportunity. I was in Dallas as Canada's representative on the North America Free Trade Commission.

You may not be aware that this is the 15th anniversary of the signing of the North American Free Trade agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico.
It has developed into an amazing economic region, seen as one the most successful trade agreements in modern history. It now boasts over $2.6 Billion per day in trade, over a $Trillion dollars a year. That represents over 28% of overall global GDP... taking place right here, between Canada, the US and Mexico. It has created 4.3 million direct jobs in Canada alone, and over 7 million direct jobs in the US.

Sometimes all we hear about are American companies that have invested in Canada. Among the large crowd of people to whom I spoke at the World Council there were a very significant number of successful Canadians who had invested in the US.

Canadian companies like Bombardier, Onex, Magna, RIM (Blackberry) and so many others are running large operations, not just in Canada but right smack in the middle of Dallas, Texas and in many other US locations.

These types of trade agreements are never totally perfect. That's why we build in mechanisms to handle disputes should they arise. It's kind of like having a ref at a football or hockey game. Everybody agrees at the start to accept the final ruling of a dispute, should one arise, and they do. But overall, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

And last year there were over a trillion (and counting) of those benefits.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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