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Public Address on Stars of the North: Canada & Minnesota, Friendship & Co-operation

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, Monday, April 27, 2015


It’s wonderful to join you here in the Twin Cities.

Today’s address is conveniently titled “Stars of the North.” What a fitting description of Canada and Minnesota!

Given our similar geographic positioning—you in the northern U.S., Canada as a northern nation—as well as our shared border, we’re very much linked in what we do and the success we’ve enjoyed.

In Minnesota, however, “stars of the north” takes a different meaning entirely when you invert the saying and come up with the departed, but hardly forgotten, Minnesota North Stars!

Being Canadian and visiting the “State of Hockey,” I think it only fitting that I begin by talking about this great game that links us.

Anyone here familiar with Lou Nanne?

Lou and I grew up playing hockey in Sault Ste. Marie, and I had the chance to see him earlier today. What a great Canadian success story here in Minnesota!

Speaking of my time playing hockey, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the role the late Don Peddie played in my life. Don was a proud Minnesotan and a recruiter for Harvard University and was responsible for me attending Harvard—a life-changing event.

Talk about stars of the north!

He saw promise in a young hockey player from Canada and offered me the opportunity of a lifetime.

Living and studying in the U.S. reinforced to me the benefits and possibilities afforded to us by looking outward. In fact, I represent many of those Canadians who received a quality international education thanks to the generosity and support of Americans.

Of course, there is more than one way to build connections. Hockey is one way—it’s what attracted Don to me in the first place—but it’s by no means the only one, particularly in Minnesota.

The connections here are numerous!

Take a trip back in time to the days of the fur traders. From Quebec, down the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes to Minnesota’s border. It was a trip that many traders made and when they got here, was it any surprise that some decided to stay?

Take, for instance, Canadian voyageur and whisky trader Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, who was the first person of European descent to settle in what is now known as St. Paul in 1832.

Today, there are so many signs of Canada here in the Twin Cities and in the state. Over a quarter million Minnesotans can claim a Francophone heritage, including French Canadian.

Of course, our links are not limited to just cultural. Our business ties are also booming.

Let me give you just one example. I have five daughters and 11 grandchildren and if there’s one thing that kids love, it’s Cheerios!

Cheerios, those simple little Os we enjoy at the breakfast table, is a Minnesotan/Canadian success story. Of course the cereal was created and is produced right here, and for the longest time it’s been made from Canadian oats.

And that’s not all!

Minnesota companies, such as General Mills, 3M and Best Buy have a significant Canadian presence. Canada, meanwhile, supplies Minnesota with 75 per cent of its crude oil. And renewable hydropower from Manitoba supplies more than 10 per cent of Minnesota’s power to the electrical grid.

In addition, more than a million Canadians visit Minnesota each year and nearly 175 000 Minnesotan jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada.

I could go on, but as you can see, Minnesota, the Twin Cities and Canada make fast friends!

And there’s still so much more we can learn from each other. Today, let me give some of my “lessons learned” on the job as Canada’s governor general.

Since 2010, I have had the opportunity to observe cultures all over the world. I have visited 31 countries and have seen the many ways in which Canada is working together with the world.

We are doing so in trade, yes, but also in research, innovation and education.

In fact, I have seen the ways that the sharing of knowledge across borders, what I like to call the diplomacy of knowledge, has created tangible benefits.

Most of all, I have learned to look at things in different ways, to keep my mind open to new possibilities.

What lessons could we learn, for instance, right here in Minnesota?

The answer lies in the importance you place on community.

There is of course the famous “Minnesota Miracle” of the 1970s that changed the fortunes of many. Some of you here are no doubt the beneficiaries of that innovative thinking. And to this day, people here are working to build a smarter, more caring community.

The sharing of resources to benefit the whole community is an idea that is easy in concept, yet difficult in practice.

But if there’s one thing that has impressed me about Minnesotans, it’s their selfless nature.

This isn’t something I’ve only learned with this visit. Years ago, my friend, Donald Love, a Canadian real estate entrepreneur, was ready to expand his business into Minnesota. His work here would ultimately lead to the construction of the Minneapolis downtown City Center.

Upon his arrival, he was immediately invited to join what was then known as the 1 % Club, where members agreed to give 1% of their net worth or 5% of their income each year for the greater good.

Don was greatly impressed by this initiative and readily agreed. Canadians, too, have been generous and innovative with their giving, and he was pleased to see that giving back was part of the culture here south of the border.

Innovation, education, volunteerism, philanthropy, strong families—this is how you build a better world.

I’ve spoken of how we’re building social capital, but how can we maintain and strengthen that capital?

The answer lies in our quest for equality and inclusiveness.

Let me explain.

In Canada, we strive to work together and with others—and we are fortunate to live in one of the most diverse countries in the world. Forty years ago, Canada became the world’s first country to officially adopt a policy of multiculturalism, and today our diversity is the foundation of our national identity and a source of great pride for Canadians. It also gives us a strong global advantage.

One thing is certain: our future success as nations will be rooted in the strength we derive from diversity. And to understand our strengths, we must listen to each other and constantly, relentlessly communicate.

Let me add to that: we must also constantly, relentlessly collaborate.

And there is no excuse not to pursue collaboration. Communication is faster, easier and cheaper than ever before, and we must take advantage of the age in which we live, a time of great change, risk and opportunity on a global scale.

We must broaden what and how we learn and how we share our knowledge.

New discoveries are rarely made in isolation, the way they might have been even a generation ago. Rather, they more often occur as the result of collaboration between schools and research institutions, the private sector and governments, and, increasingly, between nations.

We have many ties that bind us—historical, cultural, economical. But it is the dialogue we engage in, our people-to-people linkages, which will spark new success and stronger communities.

It is through the sharing of knowledge that we become not only partners, but friends.

I believe that Minnesota is a place of innovative thought and creative solutions. There is both economic success and a rich social capital here. In this state, I see the makings of a better world, one that gives anyone the chance to reach their true potential. And I see Minnesota being a beacon of hope and enlightenment for other states and other countries.

Both Canada and Minnesota are “stars of the north.” And as we are both stars, it is only natural that we work together to help create a United States and a Canada that is fairer and more just, smarter and more caring.

With that in mind, let’s continue to share, to build new ties and to learn from each other.

Thank you.