MOOSE JAW, June 1, 2001 -- Western Premiers discussed the critical role that transportation plays in the economic competitiveness of this country, and reiterated their call for a Canada-wide transportation strategy that would provide substantial, stable and long-term federal funding. The program should help to address the transportation needs of remote and rural areas.
Premiers noted that Canada's major trading partners and competitors have all made significant investments to upgrade their transportation systems. Yet, Canada, unlike its major competitors, is still without a transportation strategy and a national highway program funded by a national government.
Premiers acknowledged that the $600 million over four years for transportation projects announced in the February 2000 budget is a start, but expressed concern that the funding is inadequate relative to the needs of the nation. They noted that the national highway system alone needs an estimated $17 billion in repairs and upgrades to meet acceptable standards.
Premiers noted that the federal government raises significant revenue every year from fuel taxes. They called on the federal government to use these funds to support highway construction and maintenance in the province or territory where they are collected. They noted that western provinces and territories already spend more on highway construction and maintenance than they collect in provincial fuel taxes.
Premiers welcomed recent statements by the federal transport minister supporting the leadership taken by Premiers on the need for a national transportation blueprint to guide decisions over the next decade. To this end, Premiers reiterated their commitment to work with Ottawa on a Canada-wide transportation strategy aimed at addressing infrastructure needs of key road trade corridors, relieving urban congestion, improving the efficiency of border crossings and ports, and developing better connections to rural and remote areas.
Premiers underlined the importance of rail transportation and emphasized the negative impact that further rail line abandonment could have on the western economy.
Premiers also supported a US proposed feasibility study of an Alaska - Yukon - B.C. rail link to the lower 48 states.
Premiers also expressed concern about the future financial health of a number of regional airports devolved to local authorities by the federal government. They called on the federal government to work co-operatively with provinces and territories to ensure the viability of regional airports.
Note: Mr. Gordon Campbell, Premier-elect of British Columbia, attended the 2001 Western Premiers' Conference. However, in his current role as Premier-elect, Mr. Campbell was unable to give the official endorsement of the Province of British Columbia to the positions and commitments outlined in this Communiqué.