Premiers from the four western provinces and three territories met in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to discuss the strength of the western Canadian economy. Western Premiers are proud of the accomplishments in the West in recent years, the growing momentum and great sense of optimism for the future. Their discussions today focussed on how to further build on this positive direction.
The West is a strong and productive region. Over 36 per cent of Canadian economic activity in 2007 took place in the West. Unemployment rates are at 25-year lows in the four western provinces and multiyear lows in the territories. Over 161,000 jobs have been added across the West in the last year alone. Western economic growth has led the nation in recent years, with real gross domestic product growing 17 per cent in the West between 2003 and 2007.
Premiers are taking action to further enhance the competitiveness of the West:
Premiers commit to take further action to address issues of competitiveness in the West. Specifically, Premiers will initiate an independent study to further examine competitiveness in the western provinces and territories. The assessment will draw on existing studies to examine the risks, opportunities and challenges facing the West. Premiers will consider the results of this assessment at their 2009 Conference.
Premiers agreed on the importance of adopting a united voice on international trade. This includes building on the vital relationship with United States as well as diversifying opportunities for Western Canadian companies.
Western Premiers agreed to work together to emphasize the trade relationship with their most important trading partner: the United States. Thirty-six states count Canada as their largest export market. They noted the benefits that have been experienced on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), including rapid growth in employment and economic opportunities. Ensuring secure, convenient and welcoming borders is central to maintaining our strong U.S. relationship.
Premiers also underscored the importance of western Canada as a secure supplier of energy to the U.S. They stressed their commitment to sustainable energy development, and emphasized that energy security and sustainable energy development must go hand in hand.
Western Premiers announced that they will undertake a joint mission to key U.S. cities, including Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles. The mission will provide an opportunity for Premiers to promote directly to U.S decision-makers, and to the American public, the value of the trade and energy relationships between the United States and western Canada.
Four Western Premiers will attend the annual Western Governors’ Association meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the end of June. The meeting, which will be chaired by Governor Freudenthal, will bring together the Premiers and many Western Governors to discuss key issues facing their region.
Western Premiers also reiterated their commitment to diversifying their international trade markets, including continued efforts to promote opportunities in the Asia-Pacific and other markets.
All western jurisdictions have introduced legislation to support the passport system of securities regulation. The passport system gives market participants access to capital markets in multiple jurisdictions by dealing with the regulator and the law of its principal jurisdiction.
Western Premiers noted that independent assessments have consistently ranked Canada’s securities regulatory system as one of the best in the world. Premiers highlighted the progress provinces and territories have made on introducing highly harmonized, streamlined and simplified securities laws and on ensuring efficient capital markets.
Western Premiers emphasized that securities regulation is an area of provincial and territorial jurisdiction and noted that calls by the federal government for a single securities regulator are an obstacle to progress. Western Premiers called on the federal government to recognize the significant improvements realized through the passport system to facilitate stronger international engagement of Canadian capital markets.
LABOUR MARKET OUTLOOK AND OPPORTUNITIES
Western Premiers discussed the labour and skills shortages their jurisdictions are experiencing due to the booming economies in the West. In order to meet labour needs, Premiers note the urgent need t
Western Premiers recognize the importance of increasing labour force participation in order to address expected labour force shortages, both skilled and unskilled, now and in the coming decade. Particular emphasis must be placed on the young, dynamic and growing Aboriginal population and the growing demographic of older workers.
Western Premiers are committed to enhancing labour mobility within Canada and support the Council of the Federation’s five-point plan to strengthen trade between the provinces and territories. Premiers are committed to achieving full labour mobility for Canadians and look forward to receiving a report at their upcoming Council of the Federation meeting in Quebec City on how this can be accomplished. Western Premiers are prepared to move forward regionally and with other interested provinces to achieve full labour mobility if substantial progress is not achieved at the national level.
Premiers discussed the growing backlog of permanent resident visa applications, particularly in the federal skilled worker category. The backlog undermines Western Canada’s economic growth. Premiers are working to relieve some of the processing pressures in Canada's immigration system by investing significant resources in Provincial Nominee Programs.
Additionally, Western Premiers support changes to address the visa processing backlog and create a more responsive immigration system for all immigrants, with particular focus on economic immigrants. Western Premiers encourage the federal government to invest the resources necessary to meet this need. They support federal legislative changes to enable the federal government to more effectively manage visa application intake. Change will be more effective if managed in consultation and collaboration with provinces and territories.
Western Premiers agree that continued work on foreign credential recognition is critical to maximizing the contribution of immigrants to the Canadian economy. Western provinces and territories will continue to work with profession and trade regulatory bodies and with each other to ensure that provincially-certified foreign trained nationals have full labour mobility throughout the West.
Western Premiers agree to examine ways they can combine resources and build on existing expertise to implement a Western approach to improve credential recognition for immigrants looking to live and work in the region.
During their discussions, Premiers expressed strong support for Jordan’s Principle – the principle that jurisdiction should not get in the way of providing health or other services to Aboriginal children in need. Premiers emphasized that jurisdictional issues cannot be allowed to create barriers to Aboriginal children being afforded opportunities to learn and grow.
Premiers also agreed that for Jordan’s Principle to work – the federal government must meet its responsibilities. There are many instances where provinces and territories provide services on behalf of the federal government. Premiers directed Ministers responsible to prepare a report for their meeting in 2009 on this issue.
Just as one example, the Government of the Northwest Territories has provided health care services to Aboriginal people on behalf of the federal government but has not been fully reimbursed – creating a cumulative shortfall ($96 million), equivalent to one-third of the Northwest Territories annual health budget.
Premiers also emphasized the importance of housing and K-12 education as necessary foundations for improving socio-economic outcomes for Aboriginal children and noted the leadership and commitment of Aboriginal leaders in these important areas.
- 30 -Contact: Ian Hanna