In Halifax during the G-7 summit, some negative reports in the local media about the promotional value of the private-sector's participation in the event struck me as premature.
True, many delegates and media representatives didn't have time to go to the industry exhibits and other activities put on in conjunction with the summit.
However, interest picked up after the official summit sessions ended. Several post-summit trips were organized for the international media to industrial and tourist sites throughout the province.
At the Halifax harborfront on the weekend, a display of some of the most advanced Canadian-developed ocean technologies in the world drew a lot of attention. It included an impressive at-sea demonstration aboard the federal government's scientific ship, the CSS Creed, of new sea-bed mapping systems .
These and other high-tech exhibits at the summit gave not only visitors but many Nova Scotians themselves an exciting glimpse into prospects for the ''exportable'' advanced technologies being developed around the region's marine traditions. For instance, information on newly located wrecks available through the new seabed mapping technology will be used by EcoNova Tours to promote diving tours to the province.
The remarkably detailed sea-floor map the new scanning technology produces is also used by cable-laying companies, fishermen, harbor management officials, and geologists. ''It even shows where anchors have been dragged along the seabed,'' said Gordon Fader of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography as the CSS Creed passed over another wreck.
Up on the bridge, officials of M3i Systems Inc., Longueil, Quebec, demonstrated an advanced electronic ''sailsafe'' navigation system that takes sightings continuously and holds a huge inventory of information. Eventually these systems, in which Canada is leading the way, will legally replace charts as a way of navigation.
The Halifax-Dartmouth area, home to the world-renowned Bedford Institute, now has one of the largest concentrations of marine scientists in the world. ''Institutions like these are the cornerstone of our economic future,'' said Robbie Harrison, the province's minister for economic renewal. ''The infrastructure of the 21st century is intellectual. We are developing an impressive knowledge-based capability.''
Several Nova Scotian companies participated in the summit's ocean information technology showcase and harbor management demonstrations. These included Dartmouth-based Seimac Ltd., which has developed a sampling kit to help nab vessels dumping oil from their ballast, and Ariel Geomatics Inc., with a new imaging system for mapping coastal and environmental information.
Other exhibitors included Spar Aerospace Ltd., Toronto, which in conjunction with Prior Data Sciences has come up with new search-and-rescue technology. Already used by the Canadian coastguard, it provides better communications between distress sites and emergency response command centres and will be used by security services at next year's olympics in Atlanta.
Jointly with the Canadian Forest Service and Emergency Management Canada, Spar is also participating in an initiative to develop a global emergency management information network.
Nova Scotia has set up a special team to follow up the summit's business-related events. This will include a push to export expertise in coastal-zone management, search-and-rescue operations, oil-spill cleanups, and other environmental technologies. The government of Taiwan has just signed an agreement with the province related to search-and-rescue training and management.
A private-sector led management consortium has been established in Nova Scotia to act as a clearing house for business plans related to exportable environmental-technolgy projects. It will help refine them and give advice on marketing and financing.
Big foreign companies with operations in the province are also involved in the trade and investment drive. Min Metals of China has offered to help open doors for Nova Scotian companies participating in a provincial trade mission to China later this year. It's buying the province's Sysco steel-rail plant under a joint-management arrangement.
(Ed. note) Neville Nankivell is The Financial Post's editor-at-large, based in Ottawa.
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Revised: June 3, 1995
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