Despite a surprisingly mild fall during which summer stretched tenaciously, winter is upon us and will soon allow us to reconnect with most of the attributes that make Quebec a northern state. A nordicity that characterizes us, defines us and of which we share several values with the Nordic countries of Europe who wish to collaborate more with Quebec and its companies.
This week, the ambassadors of the Nordic countries that are Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland were passing through the metropolis to carry out a series of meetings there in order to make themselves better known, present their priorities and hope forge new partnerships in a changing geopolitical context.
The ambassadors of these Nordic countries held talks with representatives of Montréal International, Investissement Québec, Mila — Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute —, the film and animation cluster, they took part in a session discussion at Concordia University. In short, they immersed themselves for two days in the culture and environment of Quebec.
I had the opportunity to meet four of the ambassadors and discuss with them during a presentation at Montreal International in which the Danish ambassador was unable to participate for health reasons.
What is the reason for this sudden but welcome interest in Quebec?
“We have developed a new strategy. The five of us work together, we know each other well. We know that we are small fish in a big ocean, but together, we can better explain and defend our common issues,” says in a first breath Roy Eriksson, Ambassador of Finland to Canada.
Urban Ahlin, Ambassador of Sweden, quickly goes on to clarify the intentions behind the approach of the group of Scandinavian countries.
The world has changed. First there was COVID-19, then Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Before, we could outsource our production lines to China and other countries that are no longer reliable today. We are now looking for reliable partners. Canada is one and so are we.
Urban Ahlin, Swedish Ambassador to Canada
“We have just seen how Europe has become dependent on Russian oil and gas. It wasn’t a very smart strategy. With COVID-19, you saw in Canada how dependent you were on the outside for your vaccine supplies, we must review our ways of doing things, ”he continues.
Nordicity as a common core
The five Nordic countries are on a crusade in Canada to develop more partnerships to better address emerging issues.
“We have a long common history. People don’t know it, but for a long time Iceland has financed the fishing industry in Canada,” underlines Hlynur Gudjonsson, Ambassador of Iceland.
The five countries want better collaboration with Canada and Quebec in everything related to energy transition, the exploitation and processing of critical minerals, the manufacturing sector of electric vehicle batteries.
We want to develop alliances in the seafood sector, clean technologies, biomedical and maritime, Norway would like to manufacture icebreakers for Canada. “We build 60% of the icebreakers in the world, both for the military sector and for the commercial sector, and they cost much less,” says Erik Furu, Deputy Head of Mission at the Norwegian Embassy in Canada.
Finland does not want to depend on China anymore, we want to strengthen our supply chain by increasing our exchanges with you.
Roy Eriksson, Ambassador of Finland to Canada
The five ambassadors held similar meetings earlier this year in Manitoba, Yukon and Alberta.
Sweden, as we know, is the Nordic country with the strongest economic footprint in Quebec, with its emblematic companies such as Volvo, Nova Bus, ABB, Ericsson and even IKEA.
Finland follows with Winpak Packaging, video game developer Rovio, Kone elevators. Norway made a name for itself with the unfortunate establishment of Norsk Hydro in Bécancour, but like Quebec, the country relies on hydroelectricity to meet more than 90% of its electricity needs.
In addition, the Quebec company Couche-Tard made its mark in Norway 10 years ago when it acquired Statoil Fuel & Retail’s network of 2,300 convenience stores and service stations for $2.8 billion. US.
We want more from Quebec
“We export a lot to Canada, but we want to import more products from Quebec, argues Urban Ahlin, from Sweden. In particular, we want to establish partnerships in the mining and forestry sectors. »
After verifications, Quebec actually imports more than it exports to the countries of Northern Europe, that is 782 million exports last year against 1.8 billion imports, Quebec thus accumulating a trade deficit of over 1 billion.
We are very close to Quebec and Canada. Not only because of the temperature, but also because of the way of life. We are much closer to you than to the United States.
Hlynur Gudjonsson, Ambassador of Iceland to Canada
And everyone around the table agrees on one thing, in addition to sharing an almost common border with the Arctic, the Nordic countries and Canada share a common value and cardinal passion: hockey.
“Today, it’s more a common feature with Sweden and Finland,” says the Swedish ambassador.
“I remind you that nine of the players of the Winnipeg Falcons team, which represented Canada at the 1920 Olympic Games in Belgium, were Icelandic and they helped Canada win the first gold medal of the ‘story [du hockey aux jeux olympiques] “replies quickly and proudly Hlynur Gudjonsson, Ambassador of Iceland.
Indeed, hockey is and remains a powerful cement of Nordicity.