Western premiers support Alberta’s call to spur Asia trade
Leaders push for ‘timely approval’ of key infrastructure
Canada’s western premiers on Monday backed Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach’s call for speedy development of roads, ports, pipelines and policies that will support increased trade with booming Asian economies.
In a joint statement released after the first of three days of meetings, the premiers reinforced the need for “timely approval” of major infrastructure projects including the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would carry 520,000 barrels of Alberta oilsands bitumen from the Edmonton region a day to a tanker terminal in Kitimat, B.C. From there, tankers would carry the raw bitumen to Asia, where it would be upgraded and consumed. The National Energy Board will begin hearings on the proposed pipeline in January.
“We know by having the right kind of infrastructure we can grow the economy for Canada substantially,” Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland said after chairing the twohour meeting at the territorial legislature in Yellowknife. “If we don’t become more innovative and find ways of working together, we’ll find ourselves losing ground when it comes to the global economy.”
Premiers from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories met Monday in Yellowknife for the first of threedaysoftalksaspartoftheWestern PremiersConference,anannualmeeting focused on issues of interest to Canada’s western provinces.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is expected to arrive today after touring flood-ravaged areas of his home province Monday.
Roland said premiers talked about the importance of West Coast ports, about ties between Yukon and Alaska and about inland ports in Canadian cities.
“One out of four jobs in Western Canada is supported by international exports, and nearly half of Canada’s GDP is dependent on exports to (Asian) markets, so it plays a very important role when we talk about Canada’s economic future,” Roland said, adding that since 2002 Asian markets grew by an average of 8.9 per cent, compared to 4.9 per cent globally.
In the statement, the premiers also said exports to Asia already account for more than 240,000 jobs in Western Canada.
Stelmach said the discussion about specific pipelines and projects was limited as talk focused on broader questions about accessing growing Asian markets.
“All of the premiers at the table are supportive of improving access to the Asia-Pacific Rim, looking not only at pipeline capacity, but rail capacity, improving our ports and ensuring they can receive larger container ships,” he said.
On Wednesday the premiers will discuss how the federal government can work with provinces and territories to make sure the environmental review process is not duplicated.
“Let’s do it once, and get all the evidence on the table,” he said.
“Obviously there are environmental concerns, and yet I don’t hear any raised by the current tanker traffic.
“We continue to receive heavy oil from Venezuela, all the way down the St. Lawrence to Montreal, and that doesn’t seem to raise an issue. We’re definitely not going to (accept) one policy over western ports, and have a different existing policy for eastern ports. It’s just not fair.”
The proposed pipeline has been highly controversial in British Columbia. Opposition parties, environmentalists and some aboriginal groups oppose the pipeline saying it would bring more hundreds of additional oil supertankers through the dangerous and remote northern B.C. coast, putting fragile ecosystems at risk.