Vaughan advances City-building agenda in Israel

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Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, Members of Council and representatives from the Healthcare Centre Precinct MOU feasibility study with Dr. Rafael Bayer at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa. (CNW Group/City of Vaughan)

TEL AVIV, Israel –  “As we look toward the immediate days, weeks and months ahead, I am committed to building on the success of the City of Vaughan’s 2019 trade mission to Israel,” said Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, who led the delegation that included local and regional Councillor Linda Jackson, Ward 4 Councillor Sandra Yeung Racco, Ward 5 Councillor Alan Shefman and City staff.

The mission was a partnership in collaboration with the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce and Brian Shifman, its president and chief executive officer (CEO).

Mayor Bevilacqua, members of Council and members of the delegation took part in a series of meetings with leading Israeli government, business and academic officials. A meeting took place with Dr Rafael Bayer, an experienced, accomplished and trusted leader with the world-class Rambam Medical Center – one of the largest medical centres in Israel, located in the city of Haifa.

Dr Bayer discussed his country’s extensive efforts to bring together startups and academic institutions to create medical breakthroughs and enhance front-line health services. The presentation was followed by a study tour of the Rambam Medical Center and The Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital, located on the same site. The delegation saw first-hand the cutting-edge technologies that are improving patient care.

Also taking part in the mission, including the presentation and study tour at Rambam Hospital, were thought leaders from the Vaughan Healthcare Centre Precinct project representing York University, Mackenzie Health and ventureLAB.

On October 2, Mayor Bevilacqua signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with these organizations to identify opportunities to maximize the best use of lands surrounding the site of the Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital through a feasibility study. The goal of this collaboration is for the Vaughan Healthcare Centre Precinct to leverage resources to bring healthcare, innovation and jobs to the community.

The tour of Rambam Hospital provided an important opportunity for these partners to learn of proven best practices.

The City’s delegation also advanced its intergovernmental relations efforts through separate meetings with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and deputy Mayor Chen Arieli and Haifa Deputy Mayor David Etzioni.

Mayor Bevilacqua and members of Council also met with representatives from Israel’s ministry of economy and industry, ministry of foreign affairs and the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative – a project led by the Israeli prime minister’s office.

The delegation further met with representatives from Canada’s Embassy in Israel, including Stanley Gomes, Counsellor and Senior Trade Commissioner. Discussions included strengthening foreign-direct investment in Vaughan by showcasing the economic development opportunities in and around the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) – the city’s emerging downtown core.

Mayor Bevilacqua engaged his counterparts about the work the City is doing to press ahead as a Smart City leader, namely becoming the first Canadian municipality to join US Ignite – an international non-profit organization that promotes the development of data-driven solutions, services and new applications. The delegation met with researchers at Tel Aviv University, the country’s largest post-secondary institution, to discuss the future of Smart City technology and its role in developing autonomous vehicles to improve urban transportation.

The City’s intergovernmental, economic and cultural development initiatives resulted in Mayor Bevilacqua and Ramla Mayor Michael Vidal signing an MOU that commits the two municipalities to develop a comprehensive four-year action plan that advances cultural opportunities. The MOU calls for the establishment of a new, robust and accountable framework to ensure this action plan has clearly stated goals and objectives.

Mayor Bevilacqua and members of Council went to Yad Vashem – Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The delegation also visited the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Stations of the Cross – among some of the holiest sites in the world. Improving interfaith dialogue was top-of-mind during a meeting with Emir Muhammad Sharif Odeh, head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community of the Kababir neighbourhood in Haifa. Vaughan is proudly home to the Baitul Islam Mosque, a national and international place of worship.

The Vaughan Chamber of Commerce conducted a roundtable discussion and series of business-to-business meetings with the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, the Canada Israel Chamber of Commerce and Israeli-based businesses, including Zencity, an artificial intelligence company that focuses on improving city services.

The dialogue primarily focused on Israel’s support for startup companies. These discussions coincided with the City’s Activate. Vaughan innovation challenge – a series of events where entrepreneurs and startups were invited to pitch their emerging ideas for a chance to earn a $5,000 provincial grant – which took place on November 28 at the VMC.

Other mission highlights included meeting with representatives of the Israel Innovation Authority, The Center for Israeli Innovation and a plant tour of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Mayor Bevilacqua and members of Council also met with Avi Samuels, chairman of the Shalva National Center Industries Inc. This is an inspiring organization that actively seeks to care for and empower members of the special needs community and their families.

In planning the 2019 Israel trade mission, the City’s Economic and Cultural Development department worked closely with the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce, the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto, the Canadian Embassy of Canada to Israel, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the government of Israel’s Economic and Trade Mission to Canada, and other leaders in Vaughan’s Israeli diaspora.

The mission ran from Friday, November 22 to Saturday, November 30. A staff report about the mission will be brought forward to Vaughan Council in the new year.

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