U.S., Asian markets focus of meeting of premiers in Yellowknife

Most of Canada’s western premiers spent the first day of their annual meeting in Yellowknife talking about the importance of Asian and U.S. markets.

YELLOWKNIFE — Most of Canada’s western premiers spent the first day of their annual meeting in Yellowknife talking about the importance of Asian and U.S. markets.

Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland held a conference call late Monday afternoon to discuss what was accomplished on the first of the gathering’s three days.

Roland said the premiers talked about the importance of ensuring that infrastructure, policy and regulations support increased trade with Asia and the United States.

He said the prosperity of Western Canada is dependent on efficient trade with the United States and Asia, including China and India.

Roland said that one in four jobs in Western Canada is directly supported by international exports and nearly half of Western Canada’s gross domestic product is dependent on exports to these markets.

The premiers also talked about creating a “smart border” with the U.S., including eliminating wasteful duplication of inspections.

“Western provinces and territories account for more than one third of Canadian exports to the U.S., and ensuring smooth and timely access to the U.S. market continues to be a top priority for western premiers,” Roland said.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach was asked about environmental concerns about Enbridge’s proposed twin pipeline from the Edmonton area to a new marine terminal in Kitimat, B.C., and how it would create more tanker traffic along B.C.’s west coast.

“The discussion on any specific pipeline was limited because we looked at the broader question, how we can access a market that is growing exponentially in terms of a number of people moving from poverty to middle class in Asia,” said Stelmach.

“Over a hundred million (people) will be demanding more wood product, better quality food, and the wealthier the population, the greater the demand for energy.”

He said the environmental concerns will have to be examined and suggested there should not be different standards for different parts of the country.

“We continue to receive heavy oil from Venezuela all the way down the St. Lawrence Seaway right into Montreal and that doesn’t raise an issue. We’re definitely not going to take one policy for western ports and have a different policy for eastern ports, it’s just not fair.”

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall will join the group Tuesday — he toured flooded areas in the southern part of his province on Monday.

Roland said the group will wait to Wall to join them before discussing the floods and forest fires that have plagued the Prairie provinces this spring.

The group will also talk about how the provinces can press Ottawa for a new national disaster strategy.

Roland said a news conference with all the premiers will be held after the conference ends Wednesday.