Francois Hollande, French president, makes 1st official visit to Western Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is playing tour guide today as he hosts the president of France in Banff National Park in Alberta.

No French president has ever made an official visit to Western Canada

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      Prime Minister Stephen Harper played tour guide Sunday as he hosted the president of France in Banff National Park in Alberta.

      Francois Hollande is the first French president to make an official visit to Western Canada.

      Harper met Hollande in Calgary and the two made the 90-minute trip to Banff by car.

      They planned to discuss greater co-operation on international security and threats, trade and economic development, innovation, and broader people-to-people ties.

      Hollande will also address Parliament and is scheduled to visit Montreal and Quebec City as well.

      While in Banff both men attended a state dinner hosted by Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

      The last French president to make a formal state visit to Canada was Francois Mitterrand in 1987, although Nicholas Sarkozy attended a European Union-Canada summit in 2008.

      Hollande is accompanied by several cabinet ministers and large business and academic delegation.

      Visit is 'significant:' Kenney

      France is Canada's eighth-largest commercial partner, with bilateral merchandise trade totalling more than $8.5 billion in 2013.

      A senior Conservative cabinet minister said it is significant that Hollande decided to visit Western Canada.

      "It's not a coincidence that President Hollande asked to come to Alberta because I think the Europeans increasingly see Alberta as an engine of the Canadian economy. I think the largest French investments in Canada are here," said federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney.

      "Many European and governments around the world are growing their footprint in Alberta for that reason."