Canadian official’s visit reflects strong economic tie with Oklahoma
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Over Memorial Day weekend, I had the unusual opportunity to participate in an innovation roundtable discussion with His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, governor general of Canada.
This first visit by a governor general of Canada to Oklahoma is very significant. Canada is a constitutional monarchy, where the duties of head of state and head of government are distinct. The governor general, is appointed by and represents the queen of England as one of the three arms of Canada’s Parliament. He exercises the duties of head of state and is also commander-in-chief of Canada.
It was eye-opening to learn just how much the state of Oklahoma and the nation of Canada have in common when it comes to driving innovation and diversification.
Chris Benge, Oklahoma secretary of state and Native American affairs, hosted the visit. Oklahoma participants in the roundtable included Stephen McKeever, Oklahoma secretary of science and technology; Mike Carolina, executive director of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology; and John Westerheide from GE Global Research.
As a starting point, Canada and Oklahoma had $6 billion in two-way trade in 2015. Canada is our state’s largest customer, buying nearly 30 percent of Oklahoma’s foreign-bound goods. More than 50,000 jobs in Oklahoma depend on this economic relationship.
Like Oklahoma, Canada is a resource-based economy. That’s why we were part of the governor general’s multistate visit; he was interested in understanding more about how we worked to diversity Oklahoma’s economy after the oil bust of the 1980s and about our state government’s role in encouraging economic growth through innovation and technology.
Answer to success
It was impressive how at the very highest levels of government, Canada views innovation as the real answer to economic success. We talked about the options that nations and states have for innovation — developing it ourselves, buying it, or stealing it (a risky option that for multiple reasons neither Oklahoma nor Canada would choose to pursue). We agreed that those who create innovation are the true winners.
Our discussion of policy goals was also interesting. The government focus tends to be on job creation; however, it is the wealth creation that motivates entrepreneurial risk-takers and propels future innovation.
The governor general, who has written 25 books, previously served as president of the University of Waterloo, recognized for advanced research and teaching in science, engineering and mathematics. We share a deep belief that primary and secondary education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is vital to innovation.
When a country like Canada sends its national leader to learn about what we are doing in Oklahoma, it’s international recognition that we are doing some things right — like OCAST, research funding and partnerships with industry innovators like GE.
Regardless of budget pressures, we need to find creative ways to keep doing those things.
Did You Know?
Canada and the US have the world’s largest trading relationship, with Canada being the No. 1 customer for 35 states.
Read the full story at The Oklahoman. (Requires subscription)
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.