Éric Forest

Éric Forest
ISG - Quebec (Gulf)

Rimouski hosted the eighth BioMarine international business convention from October 1st to 3rd, bringing together some 300 world experts, from 18 different countries, on the subject of development and the “blue economy.” Among them were dignitaries, heads of state, entrepreneurs and investors. The summit sought to spread innovative ideas in the sectors of health and nutrition, energy and aquaculture, just to name a few. It also charted a course to a brighter future for Rimouski, Canada and beyond.  

At the heart of this collaborative international community of 250,000 professionals is a new outlook on the economy — what’s being called the ‘blue economy.’ Two principle values underpin the concept: environmentally sustainable development and local job creation.

For instance, proponents of the Blue Economy want to replace over-fishing with fish farming, such as aquaculture. They consider new kinds of marine resources with unique molecular properties with potential applications both in science and everyday life. They seek alternatives to some of the more toxic products used in the cosmetics or pharmaceutical industries that often get dumped in our oceans. They look at ways to make our ports, ships and satellite mapping more efficient as to improve both the well-being of humans and the ocean on which we rely so much. And they look at new sources of marine energy so that we finally cut the chords on our carbon dependency.

Most exciting of all, we’ve only just begun. Quebec’s potential in terms of maritime riches could easily put it at the heart of this new economy. Moreover, such an opportunity would demand both the collaboration and expertise of all our regions, not just our urban centres.

While attending last year’s summit in Norway, I knew, as the then-mayor of Rimouski, that our city was the perfect next place to take this movement. As Quebec’s maritime capital, we already have a deep relationship with both the ocean and innovation. One need only look to our numerous flagship institutions — from the Quebec Maritime Institute (French only), to the Marine Science Institute (French only), to the Marine Biotechnology Research Center or the Maurice-Lamontagne Institute — to see how seriously we take the sea. It’s also thanks to local leaders, such as the Economic development society of Rimouski-Neigette (French only), that we managed to pull together the necessary network of knowledge and innovation.

And the timing couldn’t be better.

As the new Canada-Europe free trade deal comes into effect, countless new commercial opportunities will open as trans-Atlantic bonds grow. As NAFTA is revisited, new and different partnerships are being created with our American friends south of the border. We must seize the opportunity before us now.

In this year of Canada’s 150th birthday, what better way to anchor a celebration of our wise founders than by coming together around a new, bold and practical vision for our future?

So we made our pitch to bring the conference to Canada and what a success it was.

Now we must continue to use our maritime expertise, charting a course with the help the “blue economy” principles — and cementing the international standing of our scientists, entrepreneurs and investors.

Éric Forest is a senator representing Gulf, Quebec. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the Senate Committee on National Finance and the Senate Committee on Senate Modernization.

This article appeared in the October 7, 2017 edition of Le Soleil.

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