As you read this month's column, our Lethbridge-and-region delegation is approaching the halfway point of our 14-day Mission to Asia trip.
About two dozen representatives from Lethbridge and our surrounding region embarked Feb. 12 on this journey to China and Japan to pursue economic development opportunities, to support international educational exchange links and to continue fostering relationships with our sister-city colleagues and companies in these two countries. City of Lethbridge representatives on this mission include myself, Councillor Blaine Hyggen and a representative from Economic Development Lethbridge, the marketing arm of the City.
Our delegation also includes people representing Lethbridge County, the University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge College, Lethbridge School District No. 51, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division No. 4, SouthGrow Regional Initiative, the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, and area businesses including Transmark Ltd., Great Excavations, Golden Ant Inc., and Ag Spectra Ltd. You can find more details at: www.lethbridge.ca/asia.
Our itinerary has us today in Anyang City and Anyang County, which are in the Henan province, located in east-central China, south of Beijing. Today, we have our second day of meetings in this area to explore economic development opportunities as well as closer educational and friendship-city ties.
Over the duration of this trip, we are meeting with more than 30 Chinese investors in four cities to showcase Lethbridge and southern Alberta as a great place to invest. We are also promoting made-in-Lethbridge products to Chinese importers and distributors. Our economic development session with more than 30 Chinese business people lasted nearly three hours, and our local entrepreneurs commented afterward that it had great value. There was a high level of interest in their businesses and products. The lists of attendees is now growing in the other cities we will visit, and we are having to book larger rooms.
We departed from Lethbridge early Sunday, Feb. 12 and traveled to Beijing and then on to Zhengzhou, Henan, where we met Wednesday with local representatives of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. Representatives from the Alberta government office in Beijing have joined us and are attending meetings to support our tour. Our education delegates visited a high school in Zhengzhou and were shown a classroom where students were learning the principles of robotics and were building programmable robots.
From Zhengzhou, we travelled north to Anyang City, where we arrived Wednesday evening. After today's meetings in Anyang, we will travel to Shanghai where, on Monday, we will participate in a Lethbridge-and-region investment and trade seminar as well as hold meetings with Shanghai representatives of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. Chinese news media are covering our tour and have interviewed several members of our delegation.
Our message from the City of Lethbridge on this visit is clear:
- Lethbridge is open and inclusive and is home to people from around the world
- Lethbridge invests significantly in recreational facilities, transportation and technology, making it a great place to live, learn and do business
- Lethbridge is a preferred city for many young families and offers quality education, a forward-thinking college and one of Canada's top-ranked research universities
- Lethbridge is ranked as the 2nd most business-friendly city and the 4th best place for business in all of Canada
So far, I've been struck by the amount of wealth there is in China. We've seen many new luxury cars such as BMWs, Porches, Mercedes, Cadillacs and Jaguars on the road, and we're told these vehicles cost twice as much in China because there's a 100-per-cent tax on imported cars.
Our hosts in each city we've visited so far have made it clear to us that they're delighted and honoured that we've come to visit. Our delegation has arrived at schools and other venues for meetings to find huge electronic signs that say "Welcome Lethbridge Delegation" in both English and Mandarin.
Next Tuesday, delegation members who are participating in the Japan leg of our trip will depart for Haebaru, on the Japanese island of Okinawa, for scheduled meetings regarding potential trade and education opportunities as well as to foster friendship-city relations. Next Friday, we will be in Tokyo for meetings at the Japan Trade Office and an education information session.
Also on our final day in Japan, Feb. 24, we will extend a very special invitation. Councillor Hyggen and Michelle Day, executive director of the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, will join me to formally invite, in person, a member of the Japanese Imperial family to attend the Nikka Yuko 50th anniversary celebration this July in Lethbridge. Imperial family members attended the official opening of the garden in 1967 as well as the 25th anniversary celebrations in 1992.
This Mission to Asia trip will help foster diplomatic relations with the Chinese and Japanese Consuls and with our sister cities in China and Japan. Delegations from China and Japan visit Lethbridge regularly, and this reciprocal visit will help demonstrate our interest and desire to further develop our diplomatic ties.
When it comes to establishing these kinds of relationships, there's nothing that carries more weight than personal, face-to-face contact. We fully understand that results may take time, but if we are to make any meaningful progress in fostering closer economic, cultural and educational ties, visits like this are essential.
City Council members recently received an update from a local committee that has been established in response to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. It was very encouraging to learn that this committee includes broad representation from our neighbouring Kainai and Piikani Nations, City Council and City staff, our academic community, indigenous elders, the Alberta government, urban indigenous agencies, local Metis, community agencies, downtown business, faith-based groups, and the Urban Indigenous Inter-Agency Committee.
This committee is planning how to begin implementing Truth and Reconciliation recommendations in our community. The implementation plan that's being developed is to be used to foster relationships and provide opportunities for our community to heal and to broaden awareness of the harm caused by residential schools in Canada. This is vitally important work, and I'm grateful to everyone involved for their passion and commitment.
Healing begins with acknowledgment of what has happened, and the following statement has been formally adopted for use in formal settings:
The City of Lethbridge acknowledges that we a are gathered on the lands of the Blackfoot people of the Canadian Plains and pays respect to the Blackfoot people past, present and future, while recognizing and respecting their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationships to the land. The City of Lethbridge is also home to the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region III.
It's true that actions mean more than words, and as a municipality and a community, we want to ensure that our actions will match these words in the future.
February 17, 2017