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New British consul-general for western Canada looks to deepen ties between countries

British consul general for the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Jonathan Turner is pictured in an undated photo. handout / U.K. Government

The new British consul-general for western Canada is looking to deepen the relationship between the two countries, especially around tech.

“We have some good trading relationships already. I think there’s more that we can do,” Jonathan Turner said Tuesday.

Turner, who replaced Caroline Saunders as consul-general for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in June, said he’s seen good links between industry and educational institutions in the Canadian provinces and the United Kingdom.

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“I think there’s a lot more we can do to encourage greater cooperation,” Turner said. “There’s things that we can do in the government-government level as well, sharing ideas around some key areas of technology, be it clean tech, agriculture, health, (and) a whole load of other things — I think that we can really look to deepen that relationship.”

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Turner shared his thoughts on the region and his new role during a webinar hosted by the Canada West Foundation. According to foundation president and CEO Gary Mar, viewers were from various levels of government, investment banks, law firms, universities, clean tech and agrifoods.

Turner’s previous post was in Singapore, as regional director for economic trade and policy in southeast Asia. He said his background in economic development led to being tapped for the role representing the British government in Canada.

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When the Brexit transition period formally finished on Jan. 1, the U.K. also left the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement. The two countries then signed the Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement that came into effect on April 1, continuing the elimination of 98 per cent of tariffs on Canadian exports and granting preferential access to the U.K. market.

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Turner said thinks British companies could see growth opportunities from the Canadian region in sectors like infrastructure, food and drink, and cyber defense.

He said western Canada’s expertise in energy and clean tech would be well-received in the U.K.

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Turner cautioned against oversimplifying the causes of reported gasoline and natural gas shortages in the U.K. and Europe while COP 26 was being hosted in Glasgow, Scotland.

“The transition to clean energy is a major geopolitical shift — there’s no two ways about that — and that will create some challenges along the way,” the consul general said. “But I don’t think that should be an argument to row back on our climate commitments.

“I think it redoubles our need to look at our energy mix, to look at what is causing some of these global imbalances.”

Asked about the role the British government could have in the work of truth and reconciliation in the country, Turner said he admired the “spirit of openness” and the willingness to dig into an ignoble part of Canada’s history.

“It’s something that I’ve been speaking with a few people when I’ve been doing visits and things like that to understand the perspectives from the Indigenous community, and I think that’s something I could probably do more of.”

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Based in Calgary, the consul-general said he had already had an opportunity to visit Manitoba in October and expected to visit cities in Saskatchewan at the end of the month. Those and other visits showed him the established connection and affinity the western provinces have with the British isles.

“We’ve got so many common goals globally, whether that’s working on new technologies, some of our values that we both hold, making sure that we have these values, to things like tackling climate change and taking advantage of developments in technology,” Turner said.

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“Broadly, from my perspective and from what my colleagues tell me across our Canada network, the relationship is a really strong one and it’s continuing to grow.”

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