David Alward sees energy, technology as growth sectors in Boston
Ex-New Brunswick premier says he focuses on building relationships between Canadians and New Englanders
When David Alward looks out of the Canadian consulate in downtown Boston, the former New Brunswick premier sees many opportunities for Canadian companies to gain a valuable foothold in the New England market.
"For me and thinking specific to Atlantic Canada, today is everything is global and if you are not here doing business, whether it is Boston, New York or Shanghai, if you are not present and you are not working at it every day, you are not going to succeed," he said in an interview.
"You are not going to get to where you could be. It can be hard sometimes for taxpayers to think that their representatives should be in different places, but it is important."
As a former premier, Alward said he would travel to Boston a couple times a year to try and drum up trade opportunities for New Brunswick companies.
"The reality is the minute that you go out that door, somebody else is going to walk in that door," he said.
Alward was appointed to the diplomatic post in April by former prime minister Stephen Harper. He officially bid farewell from the New Brunswick legislature, where he served from 1999 to 2015, including four years as premier, in May.
Now Alward is the diplomat, who is charged with promoting Canada to the roughly 14 million people in New England, their politicians and business leaders.
The former politician said his new post is not as different from being a cabinet minister or premier.
"So much of the work that I am responsible for here is about relationships. The trade that takes place between our two nations is incredible," he said.
"People don't realize what goes on every day. There is literally $2 billion of trade that goes on between Canada and U.S. every day. I think both countries probably take it for granted."
Traditional sectors important for trade
When it comes to the trading relationship between Canada and the New England states, sectors such as agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries have long been important.
Petroleum products account for $6.4 billion of the exports.
In 2014, New Brunswick exported $638 million worth of fish and seafood and $104 million in agrifood products to New England.
New Brunswick also sends hundreds of millions of dollars worth of liquefied petroleum, electricity and lumber to the region every year.
Those industries are still important, particularly in Atlantic Canada, but the consul general said he believes many other Canadian industries are poised to thrive in the northeast United States.
Alward is specifically working on helping Canadian energy businesses expand their base in New England.
"The number one priority that I personally have been given here is on the energy file," he said.
"The work that we are doing to see hydro electricity from Canada, whether that is Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, be able to light and heat homes and run businesses competitively in the U.S. and provide for better environmental contribution as well."
Tech sector important for Canada
The Canadian consulate also hosts a technology accelerator in Cambridge, Mass., where companies can come to the area and see if they can grow their business in the area.
"New England and the U.S. is a great place to land softly. Often governments will think about China or Europe, etc., those are important countries and we want to diversify," Alward said.
"But for small and medium-sized companies what a great spot to land first in the U.S., where there are common cultures, common time zones, common language, etc. and quite frankly the world's largest market."
Importance of digital diplomacy
When it comes to making his mark in the region, Alward said it is important to speak with governors, mayors, business leaders and citizens in person.
But he said digital diplomacy is growing in importance.
The consul general has a Twitter account and is frequently sharing stories about Canadian companies that are excelling in the region.
Looking forward 2 celebrating "Canada's Game" with my family, at the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WinerClassic?src=hash">#WinerClassic</a>! Hope 2 see you there! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GOHABSGO?src=hash">#GOHABSGO</a> <a href="https://t.co/RhAoA6kQ3o">https://t.co/RhAoA6kQ3o</a>—@CGAlward
He said his efforts on social media complement his personal discussions.
"A big part of the work that I do, or my colleagues do, is one-on-one diplomacy," he said.
"That is an important part of the work that goes on, but also very importantly whether it is Twitter whether it is Facebook or Instagram etc. there are a number of different tools and people communicate differently and we need the opportunity to reach out to people and get information to them."