Western Premiers Focus on Economic Opportunities
YELLOWKNIFE (June 22, 2011) - Western Premiers discussed a number of strategic opportunities to advance policies that will support continued growth and position the West to compete on the global stage.
Western Canadian economies are gaining strength and are once again positioned to lead the national economy.
Western Premiers agreed on an urgent need for governments, educators and employers to work together to maximize labour market participation and productivity.
Western Canada will face skills shortages in the next decade and, in order to maintain the West’s strong economy and prosperity, it is expected that the West will need over one million additional workers, fully one-sixth of the West’s current workforce.
Premiers recognize that the productivity of the West’s workforce is critical to meeting skills needs and improving Canada’s standard of living. Premiers tasked Ministers responsible to prioritize improving labour productivity.
This will complement a renewed focus on improving the skills and labour market participation of Aboriginal people, and continuing to ensure that immigration supports unmet labour market needs.
Premiers discussed the benefits immigration brings for western jurisdictions and noted the importance of continuing to attract people with diverse skills. Premiers noted that the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) remains the most effective and flexible economic immigration tool that western provinces and territories have to respond to regional labour market and economic needs. In 2010, immigration through the PNPs accounted for approximately 41% of economic immigration in Western Canada. These nominees are relieving labour market pressures, supporting regional economic growth, contributing to communities, and supporting population growth.
Premiers noted recent evaluations of the PNPs across western provinces show an overwhelmingly positive assessment of the programs and a general consensus that newcomers are making a positive contribution to provincial and territorial economies. Studies done in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Yukon showed satisfaction levels were close to 100% overall by nominees and employers, and found strong employment outcomes, low unemployment rates compared to national averages, and high levels of satisfaction with their communities as a place to live.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s decision in 2010 to cap the number of nominees per year is detrimental to economic growth in the West and Canada, and a reversal on previous commitments to provinces and territories.
Premiers renewed their call on the federal government to immediately increase PNP caps and increase Canada’s immigration target range above the current maximum of 265,000. This increase would help accommodate provincial immigration needs and improve the responsiveness of Canada’s immigration programs in all categories. The federal government must work with western provinces and territories to grow their PNPs and ensure that this program remains flexible and responsive to regional labour market requirements. Premiers are open to discussions with the federal government on innovative strategies in order to create room for PNP growth.
Premiers also noted the need for federal assistance to attract a larger number of immigrants through the federal Skilled Worker Program to smaller urban and rural centres in Western Canada.
Western Electricity and Energy Policy
Western Canada is home to some of the world’s significant energy opportunities. The West accounts for over 90 per cent of Canada’s oil, natural gas and coal production, produces all of its uranium, and a third of the electricity exported to the United States. Premiers noted that the sustainable development of these resources will be an important contributor to Canada’s long-term prosperity.
Premiers noted that major infrastructure investments to transform Canada’s domestic and trade-related energy systems are needed and will require pan-Canadian cooperation. Premiers welcomed the recent federal announcement of support for clean energy projects and look forward to discussing opportunities with the federal government for cooperation in the development of regional and national initiatives. Premiers also discussed the challenges faced by the territories associated with development of additional energy sources for the North.
A number of regional and national clean energy projects are underway in the West. Jurisdictions are examining ways to expand their co-operative relationship to increase electricity supply, security and reliability, while enhancing economic development.
Premiers discussed plans for additional growth in all areas of the energy sector, and also noted technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS), which has the potential to help reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Over 40 per cent of the world’s electricity comes from coal-fired generation, and CCS is a transferrable technology that can help to meet growing global energy demand.
Premiers noted the need to continue to support the development of new technologies and transmission infrastructure, and specifically to enhance the reliability and further development of a Western electrical grid. Improvements to western electrical grids can assist in increasing electrical supply throughout the west and north.
Premiers also discussed the need for a comprehensive Canadian energy policy framework, and called for greater intergovernmental coordination on energy policy and clean energy development. Premiers are encouraged by the efforts of the Winnipeg Energy Dialogue, a group of public and private sector stakeholders, on a Canadian clean energy strategy and called for close collaboration with ministerial efforts already underway to develop sustainable and forward-looking solutions for Canada’s energy future.
Premiers also agreed to explore opportunities for joint trade advocacy in energy across North America and agreed on the importance of promoting Canadian energy sources to key customers in the United States.
Comprehensive and scientifically sound environmental assessment reviews are necessary for environmental protection. Duplicative efforts do not contribute to improved environmental outcomes, they double-count same steps and tie up resources that could be better used elsewhere. Holding up environmentally sound projects slows economic growth through lengthy delays and unpredictable timelines. Citizens are not well served by the duplication of regulations between governments. Canadians would be better served by a “one project, one process” approach.
Provinces and territories welcome the federal government’s commitment in the recent Speech from the Throne to address this longstanding issue and work with provinces and territories to take concrete steps to streamline duplicative environmental assessment approval processes. Premiers look forward to fundamental, and timely, amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act which would substantially reduce duplication and improve the process for all, including consideration of legislated time limits for the conclusion of review processes.
Investment Canada Act
Premiers welcome the federal government’s commitment to proceed with a review of the Investment Canada Act and noted the importance of transparent, timely and stable rules to evaluate responsible foreign investments in Canada. They underscored the importance of ensuring that commitments made by foreign investors are effectively enforced and called on the Prime Minister to partner with them in reviewing the Act. They also noted the importance of ensuring that Canada continues to attract responsible foreign investment that is in the public interest and to provide a clear and welcoming investment environment abroad.
Premiers discussed the importance of ensuring the continued inflow of foreign direct investment to Canada and the value that these investments bring to Western Canada.
Premiers noted that their jurisdictions are home to many of Canada’s unique and strategically valuable natural resource opportunities. As part of their development, Canadian and foreign investments have helped to responsibly build these industries for the benefit of our citizens and our economies.
Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence
Premiers discussed the federal government’s strategy to establish shipbuilding centres of excellence in two locations in Canada to rebuild and refit Canada’s large vessel marine fleet over the next 30 years. Premiers agreed that establishing a Western Canadian centre of marine shipbuilding and repair located in British Columbia would further support economic development across Western Canada by providing a secure and stable revenue stream to support skilled jobs throughout the region.
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