LAKE PLACID - Quebec is an important economic partner to New York, but it also has potential for cultural and scientific innovation exchanges.
That was the message Andre Boisclair, Quebec's delegate general to New York, brought to about 50 people Saturday morning at a roundtable sponsored by the Lake Placid Institute in the Lookout Room of the Lake Placid Conference Center.
Boisclair first talked about the importance of trade between the state and the province, saying he thinks the area should be seen as one regional economic area rather than two separate countries and provinces.
Andre Boisclair, Quebec’s delegate general to New York, addresses the audience.
He said the goal should be to make the border as thin as possible while still keeping it secure. He noted that in Europe, a person could drive from Paris to Italy without being stopped once at a border.
"We're not there, but I think that's a vision that should keep us running," he said.
Boisclair said officials on both sides are working toward that goal. He noted that he got stuck at the border for a long time when he drove to Lake Placid Friday afternoon.
"Never cross a border around 6 o'clock on a Friday," Boisclair said. "That's a very, very bad idea."
Quebec is big on transportation manufacturing, and companies that are based in Montreal are starting to locate plants south of the border in the U.S., like Bombardier, which helps both areas, he said.
Boisclair also pushed the idea of cultural exchanges between New York and Quebec. He said Quebec has active television, movie and radio industries, and he suggested things like artist exchanges between the two areas to enrich the culture of both.
Boisclair also suggested that New York and Quebec's progress in scientific fields could build off of one another. He noted the Albany area is becoming a science center with a new nanotech-focused college and companies like IBM and Global Foundries locating there. He asked members of the crowd to consider how New York and Quebec can create and innovate together.
He also suggested that New York and Quebec could work together and learn from one another in terms of things like clean energy and combatting global climate change.
Boisclair said Washington state and British Columbia have a good relationship in terms of economic and cultural exchanges, and Quebec and New York should try to emulate that.
"This already exists," Boisclair said. "I'm not asking for such a big innovation."
Boisclair noted that there was a period when many Quebec residents moved to northern New York, which is obvious when one browses a phone book for the area and sees so many French names. Because of that, there are strong connections between the two areas, he said.
"This relationship is based in history," Boisclair said. "It really exists."
He said he feels at home in New York, while if he were to visit California, he'd feel very aware of the fact that he was in the U.S. in California at all times.
"I'd rather be in New York state, because of the quality of the understanding we have," he said.
Congressman Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, spoke briefly before Boisclair stepped up to the podium, and he said few Americans understand U.S.-Canada relations. He explained why they are so important to the area: Canada has a $1.6 billion economic impact on Clinton County alone.
Owens said he has been working on U.S.-Canada relations for 30 years, as a business lawyer before he was elected to represent the area in the U.S. Congress.
Quebec operates five outreach offices in the U.S., with the first one opening in New York City 73 years ago. Boisclair said the province is planning to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its presence in the U.S. in 2015, and he hopes to encourage some celebration of that in the Lake Placid area.
He hopes the people of both areas will build relationships. He said the leaders of each area can talk and shake hands, and that's helpful, but it won't go far if the people of both regions don't follow through.
"I believe in a bottom-up approach," Boisclair said.
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or jcollier@