The Canada Egypt Business Council (CEBC) and the Egyptian Council for Sustainable Development (ECSD) hosted a special event and panel discussion in honor of The Honorable Marc Garneau, Canadian Liberal Critic for Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and the Francophonie in the Canadian parliament. Hon. Garneau’s visit comes after a visit by The Honorable John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Minister, to Egypt in April 2014. The visit is part of continued efforts aimed at enhancing the bilateral trade relations between the Egypt and Canada. CEBC’s and ECSD’s Chairman Motaz Raslan and former Egyptian Ambassador to the United States of America Sameh Shoukry moderated the discussion, which tackled the bilateral Canadian-Egyptian trade relations, possible areas of cooperation and Hon. Garneau’s experience in space.
“The Egyptian people had to pay a dear price to get their country on the right track”, Raslan said in reference to the revolutions of January 25 and June 30; the price being the turmoil and economic crises consequent to both revolutions. However, he said that Egypt has great potential; potential that does not only need hard work on part of Egyptian to harness, but also the goodwill of Egypt’s friends around the world. The Chairman described Canada to be a key partner to Egypt. As he passed the word to Hon. Garneau, Raslan pinpointed that the opportunity to meet an astronaut is a rare one.
Hon. Garneau served his country for his entire professional career, beginning with the Canadian Navy and then as an astronaut and President of the Canadian Space Agency, and currently as a member of parliament. In 2008, Hon.Garneau was elected as the Member of Parliament for Westmount—Ville-Marie. During his time in parliament, he served as the Liberal critic for Industry, Science and Technology, the Leader’s representative for Québec and House Leader for the Liberal Party in the House of Commons. He is currently the Liberal Critic Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and the Francophonie. In 2003, Marc was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour. He is also honored with two high schools named after him, Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Toronto and École Secondaire Marc Garneau in Trenton, Ontario.
Hon. Garneau explained that he on a ten-day visit in the region, visiting Israel, Egypt, Jordan, among other countries. He said that this is his first trip to Egypt. The MP described to the audience how Egypt looks from outer space, saying that he was able to see it in one picture. “The weather is always good over Egypt…It is unmistakable due to the green line [around the Nile] from the delta, when you look at it from outer space,” he said. He continued to say that the pyramids are even visible from that distance, “a tiny point for each pyramid with a telescope…so it will be great to have physical interaction with the pyramids for the first time,” he added. Also on Egypt, the MP spoke of Magued Iskandar, a man who contributed greatly to the Canada space agency, and thanked the Egyptian people for “exporting some very talented people to Canada…for the benefit of Canada”.
Hon. Garneau mentioned the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Export Development Corporations as two government institutions working for enhancing the trade relations between the two countries. He added that this government involvement, from the Liberal Party’s perspective, is important and would be encouraged, if the Liberal Party assumes power in Canada.
The discussion that followed Hon. Garneau’s word touched on the mining and quarrying sector. Hon. Garneau described that field to be one of Canada’s strengths, and a key source of its wealth. He added that he has recently become aware of Egypt’s important mineral resources. He also described that field as a perfect example of where cooperation between the two countries could be.
Another issue that was tackled is that of energy; as Canada is a leading country in renewable energy with 50% of its energy needs met by renewable energy. The interim use of coal for energy generation in Egypt was also brought up. He also mentioned the possibility of cooperation between the Egyptian and Canadian parliament, out of Canada’s keenness to build institutions, if his party wins the elections.
In response to a question addressed to Hon. Garneau about the role of the West in internal Egyptian politics, the MP said that he believes that Egypt, as a major player in the region, should be able to live in a stable manner. “It is critical that stability exists. We are very hopeful about the roadmap [and the steps taken; the amendment of the constitution, the elections, as such this much needed stability will exist,” he said. He added that Canada will do everything to encourage and show support to that stability.
Answering a question on seeing the earth without borders from outer space, Garneau said that the image of the earth as one entity drives him to think of conflicts on the planet. He continued saying that we all live on this planet; that the earth’s population is approaching nine billion; that there will be challenges with respect to water, food and global warming, and said that all of this makes it quintessential that we harder find ways to get along with each other. “There is no other place to go”, he said.
A renowned Canadian scientist, politician and opposition member of parliament, Hon. Garneau left the attendees impressed not only by his fresh perspectives, but also by his down-to-earth and sincere outlook. Hon. Garenau’s openness served, indeed, as an additional step towards bridging gaps.