Ontario to increase attention to Alberta to maximize business

EDMONTON — The province of Ontario has gone from criticizing the oilsands to increasing its efforts to capture their economic benefits.

EDMONTON — The province of Ontario has gone from criticizing the oilsands to increasing its efforts to capture their economic benefits.

Brad Duguid, Ontario’s minister for economic development, says he plans to increase his department’s attention to Alberta by adding more staff to deal with trade issues.

“I think we have a recognition that our relationship could be stronger. I think that we want to now move forward with the knowledge that the oilsands are important to Ontario’s economy,” Duguid told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

He said he understands the value of the oilsands to Ontario business and estimated that value at $63 billion over the next 25 years.

“It may be a time for Ontario to increase our presence in the province of Alberta in terms of our business supports here,” he said from Calgary. “We may want to look at having some more presence here in terms of staffing.”

The Ontario government doesn’t currently have an office in Alberta. A bureaucrat at the Ontario legislature spends part of his time dealing with Alberta files.

“The intent is move that to a full-time contact so that we’ve got more of a personal contact here — a good liaison between the business community in Ontario and Alberta.”

A spokeswoman for Duguid’s office later clarified the Ontario government is looking at many ways to boost its profile in Alberta, which may or may not include opening an actual office in the province.

Duguid said it’s time to help businesses in his province that are looking for oilpatch opportunities and Alberta companies that are looking for skilled labour.

“There’s a recognition that that’s important to Ontario’s economy and it makes sense to look at ways we can work closer together, both in providing opportunities for our respective businesses and at the same to work together as governments,” Duguid said.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said earlier this year that the booming energy sector was driving up the Canadian dollar and hurting the manufacturing and export sectors in Central Canada.

Duguid said his government wants to move past that debate.