CALGARY — Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan will sign an economic partnership deal Friday at a joint cabinet meeting in Calgary and one of the first initiatives will likely be a trip to China in the spring.
“It’s so much better to go to China with 8.5 million people behind you and a huge array of resources available,” B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said Thursday in an interview.
“So it’s a very complimentary relationship and it’s based on mutual benefits, goals and objectives.”
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said working co-operatively is already saving money for the western provinces when it comes to purchasing pharmaceutical drugs.
“I think these three provinces together can work on common sense things like that, providing better service to our residents, more efficiently, maybe at a cost savings,” Wall told reporters this week.
Saskatchewan businesses will be on a level playing field when seeking contracts in Calgary and companies from Kelowna, B.C., can get the same treatment when they vie for business in Saskatchewan, said Wall.
Alberta and B.C. already have a comprehensive deal to allow workers and companies to move between provinces, but Wall has been reluctant to join the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) because of its possible negative impact on Saskatchewan’s numerous Crown corporations.
But Wall said his government has always been interested in reducing trade barriers to help stimulate the economy.
“It shouldn’t surprise anybody, even those who don’t want any labour or internal trade agreements signed,” he said. “It should be as easy to trade between provinces as it is between countries and in some cases it’s not.”
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said the three provinces can help each other rebuild their economies in the wake of the current recession, which has devastated Alberta and left the province with projections of a record deficit.
“B.C. and Saskatchewan working together with Alberta will contribute significantly to Canada’s economic growth,” said Stelmach.
“We’ll be talking about various issues in terms of further improving rules and regulations around transportation, some of the issues for pipelines, energy efficiency and environment.”
Campbell said the first joint cabinet meeting for B.C. and Alberta a few years ago led to savings on truck weigh stations at highway crossings near provincial boundaries. Other savings were achieved through jointly buying school supplies.
The B.C. premier said he can’t even imagine how far the new economic partnership might extend, but the three provinces may also be able to find savings in health care.
“I think there’s opportunities for us to share health services to make sure that when we have capacity and someone else can use it, we make that available, and vice versa,” said Campbell.