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Throughout her mandate, the Lieutenant Governor has made multiple missions to the United States.

Utah – November 2016

WHY?

At first glimpse, Utah has little in common with Ontario. It’s true that culturally, demographically, economically, and politically, we are very different—and yet, we share important similarities. Both our province and the western U.S. state have populations that are concentrated in small areas but are growing rapidly; we are both figuring out how to manage this transition responsibly. We both value natural beauty and conservation. And significantly, people in both places tend to be globally minded and outward-looking.

It is vital that we make the most of such connections and encourage subnational cross-border ties. Doing so is not simply a matter of promoting trade or tourism; it is imperative that we acknowledge our interdependence. For when we pool our expertise to address our shared challenges, we can build a more sustainable future.

In November 2016, I was invited to spend a day with faculty and students at Utah State University (USU), my alma mater; to meet with the governor; and to follow up on some existing academic and entrepreneurial relationships, in an effort to explore and help strengthen Ontario’s place in the world.

The Lieutenant Governor stands at the front of a large seated crowd of students in an auditorium at Utah State University

WHAT?

Nestled in the Cache Valley in the northern part of Utah, USU is a public university with 23% of its nearly 28,000 students hailing, as I had, from out of state. The university’s Institute of Government and Politics is a non-partisan organization that aims to enhance students’ understanding of government’s role in society, offering guest speakers, fora, and opportunities to intern—from the Utah State Legislature to the White House to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Switzerland. In my talk to students, I spoke about the need for co-operation between nations in bringing about a more resilient world. The students were also keen to ask me about the duties of the Crown in Canada, as a unifying institution that is above politics. In the midst of a heated 2016 U.S. election, it was rewarding to talk about our constitutional monarchy and the role of the Lieutenant Governor in connecting with the hearts and minds of citizens. From there, the conversation and questions covered a range of topics, from the ethics of climate change denial to the barriers faced by women in society. Places like the university, in an interesting parallel with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, are important spaces for open dialogue and debate.

Knowing Ontario’s reputation as a hub for innovation, my hosts at USU introduced me to some of the university’s more innovative projects and labs, including their Bioinnovations Lab, which produces synthetic spider silk for both biomedical (synthetic ligaments) and commercial (lightweight body armour) application. At their Sound Beginnings clinic for children with hearing loss, head researcher Karl White told me how he had been influenced by the work of Martyn Hyde, professor emeritus of Otolaryngology at the University of Toronto, when he helped convince U.S. governments to implement newborn hearing screening. And like many Ontario universities, USU is active in climate monitoring, research, and modelling;my hosts were eager to introduce me to the work done by their Climate Centre.

The Lieutenant Governor stands at a lab desk with scientist from the Synthetic Spider Silk Lab at Utah State University

Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital, is home to the second educational institution I visited, the University of Utah (U of U). There, I toured the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute—a globally recognized hub for student innovators and entrepreneurs that was founded in 2001 by Toronto-based mining entrepreneur and philanthropist Pierre Lassonde, who is also an alumnus of the university. My visit was a reciprocal one: Two months prior, Utah’s governor, Gary Herbert, had visited the DMZ at Ryerson University and the Lassonde Engineering School at York University—also funded by Pierre Lassonde—to learn about innovation in Ontario. U of U’s Entrepreneur Institute is itself innovative, offering students a place to live year-round in its LEED gold-certified studios, which feature makerspaces and floors with themes such as “Sustainability & Global Impact.”

Also in Salt Lake City is the Utah office of the IBI (“Intelligence, Buildings, and Infrastructure”) Group, a multinational architecture and engineering firm founded in Ontario. IBI is a global leader in architecture and design on the forefront of planning smart cities. It is not only enabling cities to use technology to become more efficient; it is also looking to nurture an engaged citizenry. Peter Pillman, director of the IBI Group in Utah, holds degrees in Environmental Studies and Architecture from the University of Waterloo. He explained to me how the Group is dealing with problems that are specific to the area—including a decrease in air quality due to traffic congestion and pollution from a nearby copper mine—but whose solutions are also relevant elsewhere. He also observed how, to achieve sustainability, organizations in this sector need to take a broad, holistic approach.

At Salt Lake City’s World Trade Center, I met with a group of entrepreneurs, most of whom had Canadian business interests and had been on a trade mission to Toronto just a few months before, in September 2016. They represented a cross-section of businesses, from translation companies to a mattress and bedding manufacturer to a maker of medical sensors. All were proud of Utah’s business-friendly reputation, but they acknowledged the need to maintain a business and political climate that recognizes the benefits of our interdependence. They spoke of the importance of encouraging constructive discussions to take place—the kinds that would build bridges between places and groups of people.

SO WHAT?

As Lieutenant Governor, playing the role of bridge builder is one that is both energizing and humbling. An important part of my mandate is to foster dialogue about issues that are of concern to Ontarians—many of which are shared by Utahns, as well as by others across states and provinces, between our two countries.

The Lieutenant Governor stands in front of the American and Canadian flags shaking hands with Governor Gary Herbert while visiting the Utah State Capitol building

While I was filled with pride at the impact individual Ontarians were making in Utah, I took away from my many conversations a sense that we as a province can continue to learn from those beyond our borders.

A shared challenge is the fight for gender equality which I discussed not only with the students at USU but also at a private dinner I attended with members of the nonpartisan Salt Lake City-based Women’s Leadership Institute. The stories of those women leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors—together with stories I have been told by Ontarian women and girls—inspired my office’s initiative Unfinished Business, which we launched it in 2017. Through it, we have hosted and attended many events that highlight the achievements of women and girls, and we have provided space for constructive dialogue that addresses their ongoing challenges. Indeed, building bridges between women and girls from different backgrounds and experiences in Ontario mirrors much of what we can accomplish between Ontarians and the international community through international missions and engagement.

I also found a shared empathy in Utah. Like Ontario, the state opened its doors to refugees fleeing the war in Syria, during a time when that was not a popular idea in the United States.

The importance of state-to-province relationships has only grown in the intervening years. The non-partisan sharing of information and innovation is key to creating a more resilient future. A future in which Ontario can both lead and learn.

New York – April 2017

WHY?

Of the many hundreds of events I attend as Lieutenant Governor, those that focus on young people are often the most surprising and, in many ways, the most educational. It is exciting to meet a new generation of Ontarians who, through their studies, their community involvement, their activism, or simply by following their passions, are engaging with the world around them and making a positive difference. Their creative ideas and informed, fresh, perspectives are essential to our overcoming the challenges we face.

Whenever I can, I shine a light on Ontario initiatives that enable young people to make a difference—initiatives such as WE Charity, which hosted its first-ever New York City WE Day event in April 2017. I was invited to speak to this gathering of 6,000 students, each of whom had volunteered time to their communities through the organization. Having spoken at the Toronto WE Day event at the Air Canada Centre (now the Scotiabank Arena) in 2014, I was eager to show my support as it expanded into the biggest city in the United States, and to see how a made-in-Ontario model of fostering youth engagement could translate across the border.

The Lieutenant Governor delivers a speech on stage at the Air Canada Centre with AdeC LCol Evelyn Kelly

The Lieutenant Governor delivers a speech at the Air Canada Centre for WE Day 2014

My trip to New York was also my first opportunity to develop and further critical working relationships with people in organizations that draw Canada and the United Nation closer together, particularly in relation to my mandate themes Sustainability and Ontario in the World. This visit laid the groundwork for later initiatives and events that also strengthened bilateral ties with the United States.

WHAT?

WE Day was held at the legendary Manhattan venue Radio City Music Hall, and there was no mistaking the enthusiasm of the participants. Many of the speakers they greeted with such warmth were young like themselves—among them actors Skai Jackson and Rowan Blanchard, singer/songwriter Daya, and the amazing motivational speaker King Nahh, a.k.a. Nyeeam Hudson, then only ten years old, whom I had the pleasure to introduce on stage in front of thousands of young people.

A photo taken from backstage of the Lieutenant Governor in a red dress speaking to 6000 students at Radio City Music Hall

The Lieutenant Governor speaks to 6,000 students at Radio City Music Hall

In my remarks, I focussed on volunteerism and just how inspired I was by their contributions to their communities. They were active participants in the WE Schools program from across the tri-state area—the portions of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut near New York City—and together, they had tackled issues such as bullying, homelessness, hunger, poverty, and violence.

As Lieutenant Governor—and Ontario’s unofficial storyteller-in-chief—I encouraged them to listen to one another’s stories, to learn from each other, and to find ways to work together at home and around the world. WE provides opportunities for students to travel to developing nations and assist local communities. The charity’s ethos is one of bridge-building. WE recognizes that sustainable change is brought about by cooperation that stretches beyond silos and borders.

It was wonderful to hear the speakers be met with such a fervent response when they talked about making change. It was also fascinating to reflect on WE’s remarkable growth since its inception in 1995 as “Free the Children,” the brainchild of Ontario brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger—then 12 and 17 years old, respectively. Earlier in the year, the Kielburgers contributed to my office’s 2017 publication 150 Stories, in which they wrote about their start at the Thornhill Village Festival, raising money for a one-room schoolhouse in Nicaragua, and how it led to their funding classrooms for 200,000 students around the world.

To further the goal of international understanding and collaboration I also met with diplomats and officials at the United Nations whose reach includes both Canada and the United States, and who shared insights on how ties between our nations can be strengthened. At the Sustainable Energy For All Forum, Mary Robinson, former president of the Republic of Ireland and founder of the The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, gave me her perspective on how Canada can contribute to global efforts to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Similarly, Elliott Harris, director of the New York office of the United Nations Environment Programme and Emma Torres, senior advisor of the United Nations Development Programme told me about their ongoing work in advancing and aligning efforts to fulfill the SDGs. Hugh Locke, a Canadian social entrepreneur and co-founder of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, spoke with enthusiasm about his dedicated work in Haiti.

Canadian consul general Phyllis Yaffe and I discussed the importance of inclusive economic engagement and of raising awareness of Canadian culture internationally—a theme that was echoed by Ontario’s economic affairs representative at the consulate. Marc-André Blanchard, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations, and Ms. Yaffe generously offered support to me and my office in later visits to New York to launch my office’s exhibition Awakening and attend the UN Climate Summit.

There are so many lessons to be learned from others. Months earlier, while discussing the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Initiative I became aware of a similar endeavour in Brooklyn and took the opportunity to visit the architects and their signature project—the Brooklyn Bridge Park. But the most poignant moment for me was slipping away quietly to visit the The 9/11 Memorial & Museum, which honours those who tragically died that day, among them many Ontarians.

SO WHAT?

The diverse yet united change-makers I met and observed in New York reinforced for me the fact that young people are best poised to combat the forces of isolationism, fear, and mistrust. They illustrate the kind of global collaboration we so desperately need to attain the Sustainable Development Goals and bring about a world that works for everyone. As the WE Charity’s growing reach demonstrates, Ontario and Ontarians can lead the way in building this collaborative spirit, and since my experience in New York, I have communicated this to many of the next generation of leaders, at events in their schools, in my suite, and in the communities of our province. My connection with WE continued as I had the privilege of speaking at the launch of its Global Learning Centre in September 2017 in Toronto.

The Lieutenant Governor stands with former Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-Moon and HRH Princess Eugenie

The Lieutenant Governor stands with former Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-Moon and HRH Princess Eugenie

I continue to observe that Ontarians have an outward-looking openness and determination to tackle global challenges. Clearly, this offers hope for continued productive relations across borders—something I have communicated at bilateral meetings of organizations such as the Wilson Center advisory board and the Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, as well as in multilateral fora in New York and beyond.

Chicago and Milwaukee – May 2019

WHY?
Increasingly it is acknowledged that addressing many global challenges of sustainability  benefit from understanding and harnessing the knowledge and energy of subnational jurisdictions. Furthermore, we have long supported an ecosystemic approach to environmental issues particularly as water and air know no political boundaries.

This is especially the case when it comes to Canada and the United States: there are so many factors that unite Canadian provinces and American states—not only geographically, but also economically and culturally.. These Lakes are the beating heart of North America. Together, they are vastly important to our identities, our economies, and our environment, and it is crucial that citizens all around these bodies of water engage in an ongoing dialogue—particularly at a time when there is a temptation to turn inwards.

Fortunately we have been left a legacy of bilateral treaties and institutions that continue to guide our collective efforts in the Great Lakes Basin – the efforts of all levels of government and civil society. Over the years science has been employed to identify the issues and propose solutions. Numerous projects engaging citizens have created a greater awareness and resulted in action that holds themselves and governments accountable. Projects such as The Great Lakes—St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which brings together mayors from cities in Ontario, Québec, and the United States to jointly protect and restore the waters—encourages new ventures, as the state of the environment changes and our knowledge evolves. They challenge citizens to understand the blue economy and to respond to significant new challenges in biodiversity.

As part of my commitment to advancing the relationships between Ontario and its neighbours, I travelled in May 2019 to two American cities on the coast of Lake Michigan: Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois. There, under the expert guidance of the Canadian Consul General in Chicago, John Cruickshank, (whose accreditation extends to Wisconsin, and who was formerly the publisher of the Toronto Star), I met with, observed, and participated in events that showed the great potential of municipal and subnational collaboration, with respect to the environment, the economy, and the arts.


WHAT?
The importance of dialogue was a central theme of my mission, and so my visits to Milwaukee and Chicago were both structured around discussions about the present and future of the Great Lakes.

In Milwaukee, I participated in a roundtable on sustainability and the Great Lakes, held at the School of Freshwater Sciences (SFS) at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Before the talk, I was invited to tour the school, which offers what I understand to be the only graduate program in the U.S. dedicated to studying freshwater. The impressive facility hosts the Great Lakes Genomics Center, which maps the genomes of freshwater ecosystems, and the Center for Water Policy, which aims to underscore the all-important connection between science and policy in addressing water resource issues.

This connection was vital to our discussion, whose participants included Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other Milwaukee officials, as well as SFS researchers. Also in attendance was Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of the Milwaukee-based Water Council, which aims to spearhead innovation in freshwater technology and runs the Alliance for Water Stewardship, a global network that strives to ensure sustainable water use in the public and private sectors.

In Chicago, I participated in a roundtable at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which drives green innovation and legal advocacy for the environment in the Midwest. Since its inception in 1993, it has achieved many legal victories and policy changes to make renewable energy more viable and attractive in the midwestern states, as well as to foster biodiversity and safeguard clean water, air, and transportation.

The roundtable was attended by ELPC representatives as well as community activists, academic researchers, members of the private sector, and representatives of the Chicago-based Alliance for Great Lakes, whose missionis “to protect and restore the Great Lakes for people and wildlife, forever.” They were eager to learn about the progress of environmental stewardship from the other side of the lakes, as it were, and I noted in particular the increasing  recognition of the value of traditional Indigenous cultural knowledge, as well as about the increasing uptake of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals as a useful framework for furthering climate action and protecting life both in water and on land.

Along with environmental stewardship, shared economic prosperity is a pillar of sustainable development, and I was granted a window on cross-border economic interdependence when I visited the port of Milwaukee, accompanied by its director, Adam Schlicht. The port, from which ships can access and trade with various Canadian provinces as well as American states, testifies to the special bond those in the Great Lakes region share and enjoy. This includes common economic challenges and opportunities, and I learned how the involvement of new sectors and investment in manufacturing are helping make Milwaukee’s port more prosperous and sustainable.

Perhaps the best way to come to an understanding of our interdependence, as North Americans and global citizens, is through art, which can serve as an antidote to isolationism. It can foster connections that build empathy and mutual understanding.

Never was that more obvious than when I was privileged to address the crowd at the sold-out Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee just before the curtain was raised on the Wisconsin premiere of the musical Come from Away. Written and composed by the Toronto wife-and-husband team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the musical is based on the true story of how, on September 11, 2001, the town of Gander, Newfoundland took in nearly 7000 stranded travellers, most of them American, whose planes were unable to enter U.S. airspace. The show was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2017 and, in 2018, became the longest-ever-running Canadian musical on Broadway. It is a heartwarming and inspiring story about, and embodiment of, the bond between our nations.

In my remarks, I told the crowd that what I choose to remember about 9/11 is how, in a time of crisis, people were there for each other,, illustrating a beautiful bond—forged through shared culture, shared geography, shared values, and shared struggles. And at a dinner preceding the performance, attended by city officials and people working in trade and education sectors, I spoke about how in performances of Come from Away I had previously seen, brilliant actors joined forces to create something even greater than they could achieve on our own. To me, this is an instructive metaphor for our interconnectedness as we seek resilience and answers to the questions confronting us in uncertain times.

Designer Bruce Mau has written about the value of trust and cooperation in the current climate; I met with him and his wife, Bisi Williams, in Chicago, where they live. Mr. Mau, who curated my office’s SDG-inspired art exhibition, Awakening, was born in Sudbury, Ontario, and he and Williams, who holds a journalism degree from Ryerson University, are co-founders of the Massive Change Network. They provided me with an update on the work of their global design consultancy, particularly the.articulation of MC24 – 24 principles for designing Massive Change. Their sustainability-focused  and branding projects are numerous and include the world’s first museum of biodiversity (BioMuseo, in Panama) and the Guatemalan social movement GuateAmala!

I learned more about the way design shapes the experience of living in Chicago from another Ontarian, Lynn Osmond, who led me on an engaging and informative tour of the Chicago Architecture Center, of which she is president and CEO. The center invites viewers to learn the stories behind Chicago’s many iconic buildings and to better understand the city’s incredible growth over time, which has been accompanied by a striking commitment to architectural innovation. The center prompts questions about the kinds of changes Illinoisans and Ontarians alike may experience in the future of our urban life, as well as the powerful role of architecture as a means of cultural expression and its potential to drive the sustainable growth and betterment of our communities.

Also in Chicago, I witnessed the power of art to build bridges across borders when I was invited to tour the Wabash Arts Corridor, a “living urban canvas” whose Sister Cities Project has facilitated exchanges between artists from Chicago and its sister cities, including Toronto. I was amazed by the vast mural Listen to Learn by Toronto artist Kirsten McCrea, along the side of a building in Chicago’s east side, by Lake Michigan. Its various patterns represent multiple points of view, and out of a large telephone receiver emerges vibrant colour, highlighting the importance of listening to the world and to the people around us, whose perspectives can illuminate our own. *Will insert tweet when posted to website.

SO WHAT?
Early in my term, while trying to understand the values of Ontarians, I hypothesized that their collective identity was in many ways shaped by the iconic natural heritage of the Great Lakes.  Consequently, the first major art exhibition I hosted during my mandate was, Identity: Art Inspired by the Great Lakes, featuring diverse works capturing the greatness of the Great Lakes, which launched in June 2015. The art depicts the unique relationships that artists have with each of the Great Lakes while the exhibition explored how these immense bodies of water have helped shape the province. The exhibition was meant to help us to recall the economic, socio-cultural, and environmental role the lakes have played in the life of Ontario.

In parallel, making use of the Lieutenant Governor’s ability to convene people, I hosted a multisectoral, multidisciplinary roundtable of leaders who shared a common concern for the vitality and majesty of the Great Lakes, including First Nations. At the end of the discussion, I challenged the group to consider ways in which we can bring the importance of the Great Lakes to the attention of Ontarians. This conversation led, in 2016, to the creation of Greatness: The Great Lakes Project, an initiative of Waterlution , of which I remain patron.

 Following my mission to Chicago and Milwaukee I have continued to support efforts to foster stronger relationships between citizens and the Great Lakes, in particular through science and the arts.

Having represented the “view from the other side of the Great Lakes,” at the roundtable discussions in Milwaukee and Chicago, I was eager to turn the tables and bring researchers and policy analysts across the border to Ontario to share their own perspective. In September 2019, my office worked together with the ELPC, and with the assistance of Environment Canada, to convene a symposium on biodiversity. It was sparked by the release of the Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a pathbreaking document produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. With contributions from 150 experts from 50 countries, who together drew on more than 15,000 sources, the Global Assessment provides a comprehensive view of where the world stands in terms of international standards like the Sustainable Development Goals. It is a triumph of multidisciplinarianism, and at the symposium, it sparked energetic cross-border dialogue about issues such as combating toxic algae blooms and invasive species, and how to foster diplomatic efforts to help address these issues together. In attendance at the symposium were John Cruickshank and Howard Learner, President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center along with Professor Eduardo Brondizio, Co-Chair of the Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University Bloomington, Professor Brad Cardinale, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, University of Michigan, and Professor Kai Chan, Coordinating Lead Author, IPBES Report on Biodiversity, University of British Columbia.

One initiative that really engages citizens is Great Art for Great Lakes,. It encourages members of communities along the water to collaborate with artists and create art that evokes the Great Lakes. In October 2019, I attended an event at the Six Nations of the Grand River where a number of these artworks were shared, and where musicians Rob Lamothe and Logan Staats premiered a stirring song they had written with the input of hundreds of local community members, many of them students, who had contributed their perspective on, and stories about, Lake Erie.

My mission to Milwaukee and Chicago brought me full circle when, later in May 2019, I visited the mural by Chicago artist Justus Roe at Toronto’s Roncesvalles footbridge—the Ontario product of the Sister Cities Initiative. His colourful work contributes such vibrancy to the area, and it stands as a testament to the evolving and vital relationship between Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and our friends across the border.

Over the years a level of trust and confidence has grown between Canadian and American citizens of provinces and states in the Great Lakes Basin. We are often described as extended family and that is something we would do well to nurture as strive for mutual sustainability and resilience.

New York – May 2019

WHY?
In these complex, turbulent times, art can resist the forces that would divide us and compel us to turn inward. It can nurture empathy, which is the antidote to fear and mistrust. By experiencing performances, films, and exhibitions together, and by learning the stories conveyed in many ways by the arts, we can come to a better understanding of one another.

This is why, as Lieutenant Governor, I champion the arts. I seek to shine a light on the role they play in fostering social cohesion. The bridges they build can reach between countries, as demonstrated by the Council for Canadian American Relations (CCAR). A bilateral organization founded in 1972 by a group led by Toronto philanthropist Bluma Appel, it supports artists, students, and cultural institutions in both Canada and the United States, paying special attention to those working in both countries. It offers donations and scholarships, funds international conferences, and loans works of art and cultural objects.

On May 13, I travelled to New York City to attend a gala hosted by the CCAR, at which Ontario’s own legendary actor Christopher Plummer was honoured, as was Montreal Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté. It was an opportunity to show my support for an organization that, over nearly five decades, has helped a great many Ontarian artists engage with the world beyond our borders.

WHAT?
The night before the gala, the consul general of Canada, Phyllis Yaffe, hosted a reception at her official residence in Manhattan. Gala co-chairs David Mirvish, the renowned Toronto theatre producer and art collector, and Agnes Gund, American philanthropist and president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) were in attendance, and the evening offered an opportunity to discuss the value of the arts and the future of arts funding with those who are deeply invested in these issues on both sides of the border, including leaders in the arts, business, and public life.

The gala itself took place on May 13, 2019, at the historic Metropolitan Club. After a typically striking performance by members of the Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberté was awarded the CCAR’s inaugural Creative Leadership Award. American philanthropist Jo Carole Lauder, who chairs the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, was the U.S. honoree, while Christopher Plummer, who would turn 90 later in the year, received the Canadian honours. Mr. Plummer’s career has been extraordinarily long and successful—in fact, he is the oldest-ever actor to have won an Academy Award in one of the major acting categories, not to mention also the oldest to have been nominated—but in honouring him, the CCAR specifically cited his work with the globally renowned Stratford Festival in Ontario. At the gala, he was introduced by fellow Ontarian cinematic legend, director Norman Jewison.

I was delighted to contribute an event message to the official program citing the three honorees’ invaluable contributions to the North American creative scene and praising the way their work has resonated with international audiences, as a testament to the power of arts to foster goodwill.

SO WHAT?
Since my return from New York, I have continued to support projects that underscore the unifying force of the arts, drawing together Ontarians from various backgrounds and nurturing collaborations with others from around the world. Such projects have included Great Art for Great Lakes, which aims to promote better stewardship of the lakes that are the beating heart of North America; the Kuumba Festival, which celebrates Black Canadian culture and in 2020 showcased photography curated by American activist Colin Kaepernick; and the Reelworld Film Festival, which provides a valuable platform for BIPOC filmmakers in Canada, whose films often trace cultural ties to other countries. And later in May 2019, I gave remarks to officially open the art exhibition Washed Ashore at the Toronto Zoo, where sculptures by both Canadian and American artists drew attention to the problem of waste in our common waters—an issue people from both countries must address together.

In keeping with the gala’s theme of bilateral relations, when I was in New York, I also met with Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff at his office at the redevelopment of Hudson Yards. We discussed technology and innovation as well as the Sidewalk Toronto project to build a smart urban development on Toronto’s waterfront. While Mr. Doctoroff would eventually announce the project’s cancellation in May 2020, citing economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the proposed development created much useful dialogue. In Toronto and beyond, so many people are becoming informed and are asking pertinent questions about what smart cities should look like and do, about their governance, and about issues such as data, transparency, privacy, and community involvement. These are important sustainability and resilience issues indeed, and the community engagement sparked by the project will no doubt prove helpful to further urban innovation projects. As Lieutenant Governor, I continue to advocate for urban innovation in Ontario that addresses the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and that fosters social cohesion, strong environmental stewardship, and shared economic prosperity.