China and India were not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne at Queen's Park Monday. But China and India are what Dalton McGuinty is banking on for two of his key initiatives to turn the provincial economy around. He wants to sell more natural resources overseas and attract more overseas students to Ontario. The market for both is in China and India.
The two emerging economic giants – China is projecting 10 per cent growth this year and India 7.6 per cent – are the ones expected to lead the economic recovery worldwide, according to the Conference Board of Canada.
Both are scouring the world for natural resources, thereby driving up commodity prices as well as exploration, including in northern Ontario, particularly for chromite, a key ingredient in stainless steel.
China and India are already the top sources of immigration to Canada, mainly Ontario. China is also the single biggest source of foreign students to Canada – 42,000 out of 178,000.
Across Canada, those foreign students spend $6.5 billion a year in high tuition fees and living expenses. Ontario's 38,000 post-secondary education foreign students spend $1 billion a year. McGuinty wants a 50 per cent increase to 56,000 foreign students by 2015. Most will come from China and India.
Many will end up staying here, encouraged by a new federal program that allows Canadian-educated foreign students to apply for landed immigrant status. This is good for Ontario.
Educating foreign students is a growth industry. There are 2 million students (1.4 million of them Chinese) pursuing studies in countries where they were not born. That number will grow to 8 million by 2025.
Australia has cashed in on the trend. It has nearly 90,000 students from India and 70,000 from China. It is raking in $13 billion a year from foreign students, its third largest source of foreign revenues after coal and iron ore.
China is buying some 300 million tonnes of Aussie iron ore a year. Mount Whaleback, once 450 metres high, is now a hole, having been cut up and shipped out, raising alarm over environmental degradation, according to a detailed report in the British newspaper, The Guardian.
Similar concerns are already emerging about the McGuinty plan for opening up what the throne speech called "the most promising mining opportunity in Canada in a century," the exploration of chromite in the James Bay lowlands, the only deposit of its kind in North America.
McGuinty has promised to develop it in "a responsible way, with aboriginal partners," who have land claims and have already set up blockades.
China is now Australia's Number 1 trading partner. It has already invested $40 billion there. An estimated 500,000 Chinese tourists go to Australia every year.
Not bad for the Aussies, who have had a history of phobia about the Yellow Peril and the Asian hordes. Still, old habits die hard. There has been a spate of attacks against Indian students, prompting a protest march by 4,000 of them in Melbourne in June and complaints of police indifference to the menace of "curry bashing."
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and others tried to downplay the racism angle. But the attacks have continued and a student was stabbed to death early this year, prompting New Delhi to warn that bilateral relations may be imperiled. There's already a study projecting a drop in Indian students this year.
This presents an opportunity for Canada – Ontario, in particular – to emphasize our peaceful multicultural reality. But Australia spends $50 million a year drumming up overseas student business. Canada spends less than $1 million. This needs to change.
McGuinty – far more than Stephen Harper – has been focusing on trade with India, having been there twice. As a result of his trip last fall, an Indian company, Solar Semi Conductor, a maker of solar modules, is investing $60 million to establish a manufacturing plant in Oakville this year.
His reorienting of Ontario toward China and India is a welcome economic, political and social development.
Source: The Start.com
Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday.