Toronto and Montreal mayors head 120-member mission to Israel

Denis Coderre and John Tory
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, left, and his Toronto counterpart, John Tory, sign an agreement of co-operation in April. The mission to Israel and the West Bank is their first joint venture abroad.

Get ready Israel – the Canadians are coming.

The mayors of our two biggest cities and a delegation of about 120 will fly to Tel Aviv this this coming weekend for a week-long economic mission that includes several Israeli cities and the West Bank, Nov. 12 to 19.

Toronto’s John Tory and Montreal’s Denis Coderre have slightly different focuses and itineraries for the trip, but both hope it will result in lucrative partnerships.

Tory is stressing business and technology and the nearly 50 members of his team come from those sectors, along with three city councillors.


Coderre is leading a group of almost 70 people, largely from high-tech and knowledge-based industries, as well as institutional, academic and community leaders. While business is the first priority, he looks forward to forging stronger connections in the cultural sphere, research and development, and urban affairs. He speaks of cultivating “people to people” relationships, in addition to encourage trade and investment.

Coderre is taking part in an international mayors’ conference while there, and hopes to sign a new co-operation agreement with Tel Aviv and establish ties with the other cities.

He is the current president of Metropolis, an international association of large cities, and is an enthusiastic proponent of “urban diplomacy.” He believes cities will play an ever more significant role in such issues as climate change, migration and security.

“Israel has emerged as a leading global hub for technology due in part to its successful incubator ecosystem,” Tory said on Nov. 3 in formally announcing the trip.

“Our mission is to learn how government interventions have facilitated the rapid growth of their technology sector, learn from their innovations and connect Toronto businesses with opportunities in their market.”

Tory will be pitching Toronto’s assets with venture capitalists and angel fund managers.

Coderre views the Montreal participation as in a continuum with the outreach he has made to the Jewish community here and abroad, in particular France, since he was elected in 2013.


He initiated a body to combat anti-Semitism that includes representatives of the Montreal and Paris Jewish communities.

Coderre let slip the planned mission in June, when he hosted Tel Aviv Ron Huldai in Montreal.

Both mayors are going to Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Tel Aviv and Ramallah (Tory is also heading to Haifa and visiting Sderot), and have meetings scheduled with each city’s mayor.

Tory regards the mission as an opportunity to “showcase” Toronto as a global financial centre that knows how to work with international partners. Toronto and the Waterloo region are leaders in fin-tech (financial technology) and cyber-security, and he wants to know more about their best practices in innovation. Representatives of several Toronto-based fin-tech companies are among his delegates, including Wealthsimple, where he officially announced the mission.

The Torontonians will visit the Israeli operations of such giants as Google and IBM, as well as incubators and accelerators that foster emerging businesses. Also on the itinerary is CyberSpark, an ambitious project underway at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which brings together academia, industry – both local and foreign – and the military for advanced R &D in cyber technology.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) applauded Tory for recognizing the potential of broader collaboration with “the start-up nation,” as Israel has been dubbed.

“By strengthening the relationship between the City of Toronto and Israel, this initiative will tremendously benefit both communities, particularly the high-tech and entrepreneurial sectors,” said CIJA Toronto co-chair Joel Reitman, who is going.

CIJA’s GTA vice-president Sara Lefton added: “The opportunities for collaboration between Toronto and Israeli companies are limitless, and we look forward to strengthening the existing ties between the two communities.”

CIJA’s Quebec co-chairs expressed their appreciation for Coderre’s leadership, seeing both economic and political benefits accruing from this mission.

“By strengthening the ties between Quebec’s metropolis and Israel, the mayor’s initiative will not only produce mutual benefits for both parties, but will significantly enhance the growing and friendly bilateral relationship between Quebec and Israel,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko.

Fellow co-chair Patrick Benaroche added: “A global powerhouse in the fields of life sciences, cyber-security and technological innovation, Israel not only shares many of Quebec’s own areas of expertise, but its fundamental democratic and pluralist values, making Quebec and Israel natural partners.”

Quebec vice-president Eta Yudin noted that Coderre has “consistently demonstrated leadership in denouncing Israel-based anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel, and has clearly opposed [boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel].

“It is only natural for the mayor, who is a firm believer in urban diplomacy, to turn his sights on Israel, a country with flourishing metropolises and a dynamic knowledge-based economy that present incredible opportunities for growth and the pursuit of excellence for Montreal entrepreneurs and higher learning institutions.”