French President François Hollande was greeted with all due pomp and ceremony on Sunday during a state visit that was historic not only because it was the first time a French head-of-state has formally visited the country in 26 years, but also because Mr. Hollande’s first stop took in the mountains of Banff Alberta, rather than the Saint Lawrence Seaway, reports the National Post.
For a Socialist leader who has been an outspoken advocate of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Hollande’s itinerary reflects the growing economic and political importance of Western Canada, where French investment in the oilsands is significant.
“I think that the people of Quebec, I would be surprised if they would be offended,” said Jean Johnson, the president of the l’Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta — or the Francophone Association of Alberta.
“Coming to Canada, to Alberta specifically, delivers the message that this is an economic business trip.”
Speaking in the baroque ballroom of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, he offered condolences to the families of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and warrant officer Patrice Vincent, killed over the past three weeks in lone-wolf terrorist attacks.
He also spoke of the threats posed by ISIS and Ebola. However, there was no doubt that his primary mission was an economic one.
His visit included a coterie of cabinet ministers, entrepreneurs and French media.
“The decision to start his visit in Alberta is a testimony of the growing importance and increasing power the western province has over Canadian politics and Ottawa’s foreign policy,” said Justin Massie, professor at Université du Québec à Montréal.