WINNIPEG, Man. – Manitoba premier Brian Pallister announced Nov. 17 that his province had joined the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA), making Manitoba an official member of the western group since its inception over six years ago.
With Manitoba now part of the NWPTA – which commits each province to enhance trade, investment and labor mobility, and to remove barriers to the movement of goods, services, investment and people – western Canadian provincial governments say it will create an open, common market of more than 11 million people with a combined GDP of more than $750 billion.
“Business owners, community leaders and chambers of commerce from across Manitoba have long called for our province to pursue new opportunities for growth and reduced trade barriers,” said Pallister. “Joining the New West Partnership will bring these advantages. We look forward to working with British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan to expand opportunities and support stronger economies right across Western Canada.”
Terry Shaw, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA), said his association does not have an official position when it comes to the NWPTA, and a formal discussion with its members on whether it favored joining the agreement never occurred.
“Informally, when we communicate with our members, our position is always national, and quite frankly, international harmonization is key,” said Shaw. “What we’re hoping the benefit of us being in the New West Partnership will be is that it will reduce one more layer of disharmonization that we currently experience.”
Shaw said Manitoba is gateway province that bridges the western part of Canada to the east, and also have a lot of north-south traffic due to the province’s geographic location. Trucking companies based in Keystone Province not only service this large area, but also experience the different regimes.
“So you’ve got the Ontario-Quebec block that kind of works together, you’ve got the US doing their own thing and then prior to us joining the New West our observation had been, you had the Manitoba regime and then the New West regime,” Shaw said. “Manitoba still spoke to and interacted with the New West provinces, but there was no formal agreement, and (we) weren’t at the table when the New West discussions were being had.”
Shaw said the fact that Manitoba will now be at the table when those discussion are happening, and be 25% of that four-way conversation, is beneficial.
“We need to make sure that the New West Agreement doesn’t trump or detract from national and international harmonization, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction from a Manitoba perspective,” said Shaw.
The original partnership agreement came into effect July 1, 2010, and was fully implemented three years later.
The four western trucking associations – B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA), Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA), Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA) and MTA – outlined their Top 9 policy issues for the NWPTA in October, for the first time with collaboration from the MTA.
The nine priorities for 2016/17 are: 1) electronic logging device mandates, 2) aligning provincial hours of service in Alberta and Saskatchewan with federal regulations, 3) safety rest areas, 4) mandatory entry level driver training, 5) monitoring and rating US carriers safety performance in Western Canada, 6) weight parity for new generation wide base single tires, 7) long wheelbase tractors in B-trains, 8) reciprocal recognition of pilot car/flag person training, 9) improving the speed of regulatory change.
“We’re now part of the conversation,” Shaw said. “It’s not just what the BCTA, AMTA and STA are putting forth to the New West group; Manitoba is now part of that conversation formally.”
Shaw said being part of the NWPTA will hopefully move the province away from being that ‘lone entity’ that interacts with the various provinces and US states surrounding them when dealing with many of those nine key issues, something he said Manitoba felt from time to time.
“This will help reduce the part of us being ‘are we with Ontario on this one, are we with the New West on that one?’ We’ll be part of that New West block,” Shaw said. “The New West block will hopefully drive western policies, practices, perceptions, beliefs and desires throughout the national and international discussions.”
Other western provinces were also enthusiastic to have Manitoba part of the NWPTA.
“Alberta is proud to work with our western neighbors to grow, strengthen and diversify the economy,” said Alberta premier Rachel Notley. “We share a common commitment to creating jobs, enhancing opportunities for enterprise and investment, and increasing prosperity throughout and beyond Western Canada.”
“We are pleased to welcome Manitoba into the New West Partnership,” added Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. “We’ve had great success over the past six years in removing barriers and opening up trade within our region. Together, we can continue to reduce hurdles affecting long-term business opportunities and make western Canada even stronger.”
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