Provincial pact makes for 'economic powerhouse'

Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have come together to form an alliance they say will make Western Canada an "economic powerhouse."
The three provinces signed the New West Partnership in Regina on Friday, a partnership that would put the trio's combined market value at $555 billion.

"We signed an agreement today that creates an amazing economic force," said Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

The partnership aims to look at ways to attract more investors and deal internationally, specifically in Asia.

"(Western Canada) is an economic region that is home to a number of industries that the world is very interested in right now. It is home to not only the resources that people want, but the innovations and the science that the world is interested in," Wall said.

"When you can say to international investors there's a nine million-person market that's available, when you can say that to our own businesses, it is a very positive economic launching pad," said B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell.

But Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour doesn't agree.

"The vast majority of companies that decide to invest in Alberta make those decisions based on our resources, rather than our rules and regulations," McGowan said.

Under the agreement, there are also plans to remove trade, investment, and labour mobility barriers between the three provinces, similar to concepts of TILMA, the trade, investment and labour mobility agreement signed between Alberta and B.C. in 2007, which had been openly protested by the Council of Canadians and the Alberta Federation of Labour. But the premiers have stressed that New West is not the same as TILMA.

McGowan says the labour and trade component of the New West agreement is trying to "fix a problem that doesn't exist."

"The reality is there isn't a problem of labour mobility in this country and there hasn't been for years."

But a spokesman for the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation says any initiative that lessens or removes trade and investment barriers is positive for the economy.

New West will also look at joint procurement, whether items like medical equipment, textbooks for schools and pharmaceutical products can be bulk purchased as a way to save on provincial spending.

"All three provinces are going to be able to reduce some of their public expenditures and when we do that we can then keep our taxes low," Premier Ed Stelmach said.

"When we move to a common procurement strategy, we will save millions of dollars for our taxpayers," Campbell said.

"Our taxpayers will get much better value for every dollar that we take out of their pockets."

The three premiers head to Asia on May 14 to make their first appearance as part of the New West to Asian investors.

The New West Partnership trade agreement will officially come into effect July 1.

Edmonton Sun, Fri Apr 30 2010
Byline: Linda Hoang

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.