Conférence des Premiers ministres de l’Ouest 1997


Youth Employment

Western Premiers discussed the urgent need to address the problem of youth unemployment, which is consistently double the unemployment rate of the general population. They emphasized the importance of developing a youth employment strategy, noting that all Premiers, when they last met in Jasper, directed their Labour Market Ministers to develop such a strategy.

Western Premiers noted that all four western provinces and two territories have developed initiatives to address the problem of youth unemployment. There are many successful youth jobs programs within individual jurisdictions, but there needs to be more information sharing among them. They agreed to prepare a Western "Best Practices Report" and directed their Ministers responsible to develop a coordinated western approach to the national discussions on youth employment. Premier Clark, as Chair of this year's Western Premiers' Conference, will take this report forward to the next Annual Premiers' Conference.

A comprehensive approach combining employment with training and education is needed to ensure young people have the skills and opportunities they need to participate in the changing economy. At the same time, the Premiers noted that many youth have unique skills in dealing with emerging technologies that should be recognized as invaluable in today's labour market.

Western Premiers emphasized the importance of developing strong public/private sector partnerships as part of a successful youth employment strategy.

The Premiers called for closer cooperation among federal-provincial-territorial governments in the development of a comprehensive youth employment strategy. They agreed to raise this concern at the Annual Premiers' Conference.

Western Premiers made specific reference to the high rate of unemployment among Aboriginal youth and the federal government responsibility in addressing this problem. The Premiers called on the federal government to take immediate action to lower the unemployment rate among Aboriginal youth.

Student Debt

Western Premiers are concerned that students are incurring unprecedented levels of debt to pursue post-secondary education. Premiers agreed that federal government cutbacks in post-secondary education funding have resulted in some cases in higher costs for students and a corresponding rise in student debt levels. Premiers also agreed that unmanageable levels of student debt for recent graduates could discourage many capable students, particularly lower income youth, from pursuing higher education at a time when employers are demanding a higher level of skills than ever before for entry level positions.

Premiers noted that western provinces and territories have adopted measures to reduce student debt levels, while the federal government has not. Given that the highest proportion of such debt results from federal loans, the Premiers called on the federal government to provide student debt relief. They urged the federal government to implement a debt reduction grant program to reduce student debt. Premiers agreed that federal-provincial-territorial coordination is necessary to solve the complex problem of student debt.

International Trade

Western Premiers reviewed the success of the First Ministers' Team Canada approach to international trade and investment promotion. They reaffirmed their full support for its continuation.

Premiers recalled that the Team Canada concept was initiated and developed through Western Premiers' Conferences before being adopted by the other provinces and the federal government. They agreed to propose to their colleagues in the other governments and to the private sector that consultations be held on the creation of a new, joint federal/provincial-territorial/private agency to help coordinate support and follow up for future Team Canada missions. They believe such an agency should be located in the West.

They agreed that the next Team Canada mission, in early 1998, should focus on South and Central America, as currently planned. They noted that these Team Canada missions could become important for the promotion of domestic events and attractions such as the Pan-American Games to be held in Manitoba in 1999. Other events of this kind can be featured in future. New efforts to promote northern business should also be emphasized in such areas of expertise as resource industries, remote community and extreme climate living. Premiers recognized improvements including the determination of priority destinations. Emerging markets such as eastern Europe and South Africa should be considered as priorities for future Team Canada missions.

Premiers expressed strong support for the many activities involved in marking Canada's Year of Asia-Pacific and welcomed the fact that the 1997 Asia Pacific summit conference will be held in Vancouver in November. The Premiers will be working with the Prime Minister to ensure that the Team Canada spirit and approach are applied in appropriate conference arrangements, to build on the strong bonds with our Asian trading partners which have been established through the Team Canada process and other provincial and territorial initiatives.

Premiers also agreed that the Team Canada approach should apply as well to the development and implementation of international trade and investment. They cited the provinces' long standing objective of achieving formal confirmation, through a federal/provincial-territorial agreement of their role in trade agreement negotiation and implementation. They noted that the Prime Minister has indicated receptiveness to this proposal. They will be discussing this matter with their colleagues in the other provinces at the Annual Premiers' Conference in August in New Brunswick.

Premiers' also believe that the Committee of Ministers of International Trade should be reactivated as soon as possible after the federal election to review the growing range of trade policy concerns such as:

- U.S. protectionist measures including, the Helms-Burton legislation;

- a number of actions and threats directed at Canadian agriculture and agricultural products;

- action against Canadian fur industry;

- the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment; and

- the implications for Canada of activity by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In addition to discussions by ministers responsible for international trade, Premiers proposed that these issues and others should be high on the agenda for a First Ministers' Conference on the Economy early in the mandate of the new federal government.

Premiers reiterated the necessity of firm and consistent action by the Government of Canada in defending the nation's interests including the interests of all regions internationally. They believe it is essential that provinces and territories support and complement these efforts wherever possible, in recognition of the fact that, increasingly, international activities directly affect provincial and territorial responsibilities and jurisdictions. They cited specific issues such as the fisheries on the east and west coasts and grain, potatoes and sugar in the prairies as examples of major concern. In some cases, past federal efforts have not been sufficient to prevent significant harm to some of these industries and to the Canadian economy.

Pacific Salmon Treaty

The Western Premiers expressed their strong concern over the U.S. failure to negotiate a resolution to the implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the resulting impact that this will have on salmon and the communities and workers dependent on the resource. The Premiers expressed support for the Premier of B.C. in his strong stand on this issue, and urged the Canadian and U.S. governments to enter into the negotiations this week with a renewed commitment to reaching a settlement. They also noted that Canada must take immediate action on this and other trade matters to ensure that international treaties are honoured and implemented, and that the Pacific Salmon Treaty is implemented before this fishing season.

The Premiers acknowledged that recognition of the principle of fair benefit accruing to salmon-producing jurisdictions must also include the Yukon River fishery.

Internal Trade

Western Premiers stressed the importance to the Canadian economy of ongoing efforts to reduce and eliminate barriers to internal trade.

They reaffirmed their support for completing the outstanding commitments in the Agreement on Internal Trade. They also expressed their strong interest in completing the work on a more effective code of conduct on investment competition and plan to raise that suggestion at the 1997 Annual Premiers' Conference.

They also agreed to joint action to address other trade liberalization priorities such as further harmonization of trucking regulations and interprovincial trade in electricity in the West.

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