2016 Western Premiers’ Conference

NEWS RELEASE – Western Premiers focus on jobs and communities

 VANCOUVER – May 6, 2016 - Western Premiers met in Vancouver over the  past two days to discuss ways to build future prosperity in Canada's Western  provinces and territories.

 The  West continues to be an essential economic driver for Canada.  The annual  Western Premiers' Conference‎ is an opportunity for Western provincial and  territorial leaders to set priorities and offer constructive leadership on the  national stage.

 During the Conference, Western Premiers discussed how to  strengthen the economy and position the West to remain globally competitive.  They found shared ground on energy and resource development, climate action,  immigration and international trade.  They  agreed on the importance of building prosperity through partnerships with Indigenous  governments, Indigenous development corporations and Indigenous entrepreneurs.  Premiers also  agreed on the importance of supporting communities in times of crisis, by  ensuring adequate resources and funding are available to predict, prepare for and  respond to wildland fires, floods and drought.

"I want to  thank my provincial and territorial colleagues for bringing their strong  Western voices to the table for the Western Premier's Conference," said Premier  Clark.  "Together, we will continue to  work towards building a stronger, more prosperous Canada."

 The Western  Premiers have been meeting regularly since 1973 to discuss common issues and  strengthen and diversify their shared economy.

 A  backgrounder follows.


 Western Premiers met in Vancouver over the past two days  to discuss ways to build future prosperity in Canada's Western provinces and  territories.

 Western Canada's energy and natural resources have been  the driving force behind the growth of Canada's export economy in the 21st  century.  Continued action is needed to  ensure that Western Canadians, including Indigenous businesses and  entrepreneurs, can compete and win in the increasingly competitive global  marketplace.

 Ensuring that Western provinces and territories continue  to grow and diversify their economic opportunities will strengthen both the  Western and the national economy.  A fragile  global economy, coupled with the imperative of protecting the environment and  addressing climate change, presents new challenges and opportunities for the  entire Western Canadian region.

Partnership  with the Federal Government

 Canada's governments need to work together to build the  economy.  Western Premiers noted the  federal government's increased engagement with provinces and territories on a  wide range of files, and stressed that such engagement must be based on shared  leadership that includes meaningful collaboration, recognizing the unique needs  and expertise of jurisdictions, and respecting areas of provincial and  territorial responsibility.  Western  provinces and territories will continue to be active, constructive partners in intergovernmental  cooperation to improve opportunities for Canadians.

 Canadians count on their governments to safeguard the  quality of their health care systems.   However, upcoming changes in the growth formula for the Canada Health  Transfer may challenge the ability of provinces and territories to ensure  sustainable and quality health care services for all Canadians.  Western Premiers look forward to immediate discussions  with other First Ministers and quick progress on renewed financial arrangements  in support of Canada's health care systems.   Premiers also discussed disparities in health outcomes between Indigenous  and non-Indigenous Canadians.  Closing  these gaps will require sustained federal commitment in cooperation with Indigenous  Canadians to address both immediate health care needs and underlying factors.

Energy and  Resource Development

 Western Canadians are proud of the region's abundant and  diversified mix of natural resources.   Western resources provide a sustainable and reliable supply of energy  while contributing to economic growth and prosperity.

 Achieving greater market access for the West's diverse  energy resources is a shared priority of all Western jurisdictions.  Western Premiers reiterated their agreement on  the importance and urgency of moving Canada's resources to market.  When resources are transported in a responsible,  timely, predictable and sustainable way that is informed by science-based  environmental assessments conducted within existing jurisdictional frameworks,  all Canadians benefit through long-term economic growth and job creation.  Premiers also discussed the ongoing federal  review of the National Energy Board, and called upon the federal government to  work cooperatively with the provinces and territories on changes to the National  Energy Board and environmental assessment processes to ensure a regulatory  regime that is effective, timely, and predictable, and does not put Canadian  industries at a competitive disadvantage.

 Unlocking Western Canada's natural resources will require  both infrastructure to bring goods to market, and a timely, efficient and  effective permitting process.  Premiers  encouraged the federal government to preserve the principle of substitution in  environmental assessment.  Without  substitution, parallel federal and provincial assessments can lead to  inefficiency and delays.  Substitution is  a tool for maintaining assessment standards while reducing duplication.

 Western Premiers also discussed their collective  commitment to sustainable resource development, and shared information on their  respective initiatives to foster responsible and sustainable economic growth.  Premiers acknowledge that the oil and gas  industry will continue to be a major driver of economic growth and an important  fuel source for Canada, and will continue to be vitally important to the  livelihoods and futures of families across Canada.

 Moving towards cleaner and renewable energy sources will  open up economic opportunities and help improve long term energy reliability  and resiliency.  Premiers also reinforced  their interest in reviewing potential opportunities to increase the capacity of  inter-jurisdictional electricity inter-ties, noting that improved grid  connections will be an important link to increased market access and growing  demand for Canada's energy resources, and the associated economic growth that  will follow for all Canadians.

 Premiers recognized that, without a devolution agreement,  Nunavut is limited in developing its resources and fully contributing to the  Canadian economy.  Premiers expressed support  for Nunavut's desire to acquire control over its lands, waters and resources  through an agreement with the federal government in the months ahead.

Climate  Action

 Western Premiers discussed their continued commitment to  the Vancouver Declaration, and ongoing work to develop a Pan-Canadian Framework  on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

 Western Premiers agreed that for Canada to make a  difference globally, we must pursue a range of actions, including technological  innovation, adaptation measures and emissions reductions.  The North is seeing significant impacts  already and adapting to these changes is placing significant burdens on  Northern communities and governments. Western Premiers affirmed their support  for strong action, and agreed on common approaches within the Framework in  several specific areas of common interest.

  • Reducing methane       emissions.  Reducing methane emissions is an       important step in meeting Canada's greenhouse gas emissions targets.  Western Premiers are committed to       working collaboratively with each other, industry, and the federal       government to determine the best methods of reducing these emissions.  Actions to achieve methane reduction       targets must be flexible, to enable industry to respond where actions are most       cost-effective and to maintain competitiveness.  Western Premiers urge the federal       government to ensure consultation with provinces and territories in       advance of international agreements in areas of provincial       responsibilities.
  • Decreasing remote       communities' dependency on diesel.        Offering remote communities solutions to access cleaner or       renewable energies and transition from the use of diesel can help to       improve health, strengthen local economies, and reduce greenhouse gas       emissions and air contaminants.  Through       the Canadian Energy Strategy, provinces and territories are working       together to improve access to affordable, clean, renewable and reliable       supplies of energy in off-grid communities.  The federal government has a key role to       play to support provinces and territories in these efforts, including       funding supports.
  • Grid expansion and       infrastructure.  Expanding and improving access to       electricity grids across the Western provinces and territories would       facilitate improved access to renewables such as hydroelectricity, solar       and wind.  Federal support for       Western grid expansion and infrastructure improvements, including through       the development of improved inter-tie infrastructure, would help support this       goal.
  • Resilient infrastructure.  Managing the risks associated with a       changing climate requires updated assessments of the hazards that       communities, key assets, infrastructure and critical services are already       experiencing today and will experience in the future.
  • Low carbon and alternative       fuels.  Addressing greenhouse gas emissions from       transportation requires investment in vehicle electrification and transition       fuels such as biofuels and natural gas, including new infrastructure,       retrofits for existing vehicles, and market access for new vehicle       purchases.
  • Energy efficiency.  Enhancing energy efficiency helps to       reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security and save money.  Western provinces and territories are       taking individual actions to promote energy conservation, and are working       together through the Canadian Energy Strategy to find opportunities to       enhance and coordinate energy efficiency codes and standards.

Premiers also discussed the importance of innovation and  acknowledge the need for flexible federal funding arrangements that support  clean technologies which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Building  Western Prosperity with Indigenous Partners

 Western Premiers discussed the importance of industry and  provincial/territorial partnerships with Indigenous governments, communities,  development corporations and entrepreneurs.   Such partnerships can increase opportunities for Indigenous people to  participate in the economy, to the benefit of individuals, Indigenous  communities, businesses, surrounding communities and the entire Canadian  economy.  Having shared examples of local  success stories, Premiers agreed to continue to promote awareness of the  positive value that such partnerships bring to the economy.  They asked their Ministers to support further  sharing of such information among the business community and among Indigenous  communities.

 Premiers urge the federal government to fulfill its  constitutional obligations to Indigenous peoples, including implementation of  self-government agreements and modern treaties.

 Premiers look forward to the meeting with National Indigenous  Organization leaders that Premier Pasloski will host in July, including  discussion of Indigenous people's participation in the Canadian economy.


 Western Premiers discussed  the importance of immigration to the Western Canadian economy.  Despite recent economic challenges due to low  commodity prices, economic immigration remains a vital tool for meeting  specific labour market needs and generating economic growth.  In the medium and longer term, economic  immigration will be even more important.   The West is a driver of job creation, and Western Canada will continue  to need people to fill these jobs, including skilled immigrants.

 Western Premiers support the  federal government's intention, expressed in its 2016 immigration levels plan,  to increase refugee resettlement and family reunification.  Premiers welcome these new Canadians.  It is critical that supports are in place to  ensure that refugees make a successful transition to life in Canada.  Premiers discussed the challenges that  education and other social services are facing welcoming the growing numbers of  Syrian refugees.  To ensure the best  possible start to their new life in Canada, Premiers called on the federal  government to meet its commitments with regard to settlement support.  This will include funding to support the  successful integration of Syrian learners into Canadian schools, and to ensure  that language training is easily accessible to refugees and newcomers of all  ages.

 Western Premiers agreed that  the 2017 levels plan should focus on increasing economic immigration. This must  include lifting the caps on the Provincial and Territorial Nominee Programs,  which are best placed to meet provinces' and territories' labour market needs.

 Western Premiers look  forward to continuing to work with the federal government to ensure that  immigration levels meet the needs of provincial and territorial economies.  Levels planning for economic immigration  should be evidence-based, to ensure the number of economic immigrants is  adequate to meet demand.  Western  Premiers call on the federal government to continue work with provinces and territories  to develop a framework for joint, evidence-based levels planning in time for  2017.

Employment  Insurance

 Premiers appreciated the  extension of Employment Insurance benefits in 12 identified regions that have  experienced sharp and sustained increases in unemployment rate.  However, Premiers are concerned that there is no mechanism for adding other regions to  the list based on new unemployment data that becomes available during the  one-year term of these measures.  This  approach is not acceptable and will not meet the urgent needs of families.  Premiers agreed that the federal government  needs to review eligibility and payment timing again within the next three  months to ensure that workers and their families get the support they need.

International  Trade and Market Access

 Western Premiers discussed the importance of  international trade and the need to expand access to new and existing markets  for Western Canadian products and services.

 International trade agreements help drive Canada's  economic competitiveness and prosperity.   Western Premiers called for the federal government to work with the EU  to bring the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement  into force without undue delay.  The  federal government must also be prepared to ratify the Trans Pacific  Partnership as soon as possible.

 Western provinces and territories account for more than  63 percent of Canada's total exports to Asia.   Western Premiers discussed the need to deepen relations, trade and  economic cooperation with the Asia Pacific region.  Canada must act quickly relative to  competitors such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan to take advantage of  agreements with key trading partners.  Western  Premiers called for more free trade agreements, including bilateral agreements  with India, Japan, and China.  They  emphasized the need for these trade agreements to be comprehensive and achieve  meaningful market access.  They also  called on the federal government to pursue opportunities with countries of  Southeast Asia such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

 For Western Canada's goods and services to have a clear  path to international markets, the federal government must also enhance its  ability to provide timely services to exporters, address foreign non-tariff  barriers, and coordinate its trade promotion activities with provinces and  territories.

 Our largest trading partner, the United States, continues  to be critically important to Canada's international trade success.  Western Premiers discussed the expiry of the  Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement and urged governments on both sides of  the border to negotiate a new agreement that will bring needed stability and  predictability to our lumber industries.

 Our international reputation with customers and trading  partners hinges on an efficient and effective air, rail, road, marine and  pipeline transportation system to move our raw materials, goods and services  quickly and reliably to world markets.  Western  Premiers are committed to working together with federal, provincial and  territorial governments and the private sector to invest in a safe, reliable  and effective transportation system for the benefit of all Canadians.  In particular, Western Premiers called for  increased federal investment, in cooperation with Western provinces and  territories and the private sector, in gateways and transportation corridors to  support jobs and achieve current and future export targets.

 Premiers agreed that federal infrastructure programs must  follow a "base plus per capita" formula that will allow more strategic  investments in Northern jurisdictions.

 Western Premiers feel the recently released Canada Transportation Act Review Report  provides a blueprint for enhancing aspects of Canada's transportation system,  including strategic transportation infrastructure.  They welcomed the announcement by the federal  government of a comprehensive engagement process to inform the development of a  long-term transportation agenda.  Premiers  expressed appreciation for the federal government's recent announcement of its  intention to extend temporary measures while the federal Transport Minister  considers the report's recommendations.

 Western Premiers called for federal funding under the New  Building Canada Fund–National Infrastructure Component to focus on Western  transportation infrastructure needs, including investments in key strategic  corridors, including the North.  They  called on the federal government to work closely with Western provinces and  territories to ensure that Canada's transportation system is capable of  supporting and enhancing Western Canada's position as a reliable global  supplier of goods and services. Premiers recognize that all of Canada depends  on Western Canadian infrastructure to get goods to market in fast growing Asian  economies.

2017 Western  Premiers' Conference

 Premier Pasloski confirmed  that Yukon will host next year's Western Premiers' Conference.

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 Media  Contact:

Stephen Smart
 Press Secretary
 Office of the Premier
 Province of British Columbia