UK looking for opportunity
Tony Kay came to Red Deer on Thursday to talk, and listen.
Speaking to government, business and economic development officials at the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce office, the Calgary-based British consul general described his country’s interest in Canadian trade and investment. He stressed that wants to learn about the opportunities in places like Central Alberta.
“I’m really keen to hear from you (about) your activities or your organization’s activities . . . what the potential for U.K. interface is.”
Previously Britain’s consular regional director for the Middle East, Kay moved into his new position last July — after the British government announced it was upgrading its trade and investment office in Calgary to a full consulate general. This change came as diplomatic offices elsewhere were closing or being reduced in size to cut costs.
Kay explained that his government decided to enhance its presence in emerging markets like China — and Western Canada.
“We thought that Western Canada was a place where we were under-represented, frankly,” he said.
“Alberta, from an energy prosperity and energy security and indeed climate security perspective is really, really important to the U.K.”
British companies already have a large stake in the oilsands, said Kay. His country must find a balance between energy development and environmental protection, he added.
“We are not here to lecture, we are not here to browbeat, we’re not here to instill some sort of rabidly green pro-climate agenda.
“But we are here to engage with energy, to engage with the provincial government and to engage with the federal government in terms of partnership — how we, Britain, can help the industry here address the environmental impacts that exist.”
Kay said the Calgary consulate general — which covers Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — wants to practise “commercial diplomacy” in other sectors as well, promoting trade and investment, the exchange of science and innovation, and academic co-operation.
One example might be tapping into Canadian expertise when it comes to carbon capture and storage, he said.
His department’s mandate includes raising awareness among U.K. companies about Canada.
“What we are charged with is trying to encourage and educate the British business community as to the opportunities that exist in places like Alberta, and places like Saskatchewan and places like Manitoba.”
Canadian companies that want to do business in Britain can also count on a helping hand from Kay and his counterparts. That extends to those with broader aspirations than just the island country.
“If Canadian companies have got a vision of accessing the European market, we think that Britain is the place that they should do that from.”
Kay said his staff will look to regions like Central Alberta when seeking trade and investment opportunities, he said.
“We could probably perform quite effectively if we just focused on Calgary, but we are determined not to do that.
“It’s important that I come to communities like Red Deer. There are clearly opportunities here.”
Kay acknowledged that his term as British consul general got off to a bit of a rocky start.
While attending an event at the Calgary Stampede, Kay introduced himself to another dignitary and asked him his name.
“I’m Stephen Harper,” came the reply.