November 03, 2014 - 5:03 AM
BANFF, Alta. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper was playing tour guide Sunday as he hosted the president of France in Banff National Park in Alberta.
Francois Hollande is the first French president to make an official visit to western Canada.
Harper met Hollande in Calgary Sunday morning and the two made the 90 minute trip to Banff by car.
They're expected to discuss greater co-operation on international security and threats, trade and economic development, innovation, and broader people-to-people ties.
Hollande will also address Parliament and is also scheduled to visit Montreal and Quebec City.
While in Banff both men will attended a state dinner hosted by Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
The last French president to make a formal state visit to Canada was Francois Mitterrand in 1987, although Nicholas Sarkozy attended a European Union-Canada summit in 2008.
Hollande will be accompanied by several cabinet ministers and a large business and academic delegation.
France is Canada's eighth-largest commercial partner, with bilateral merchandise trade totalling more than $8.5 billion in 2013.
A senior Conservative cabinet minister said it is significant that Hollande has decided to visit Western Canada.
"It's not a coincidence that President Hollande asked to come to Alberta because I think the Europeans increasingly see Alberta as an engine of the Canadian economy. I think the largest French investments in Canada are here," said federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney.
"Many European and governments around the world are growing their footprint in Alberta for that reason."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014