Western provinces make a pact

REGINA — After taking the summer to let the idea simmer, Canada’s three westernmost provinces agreed to move forward on a plan to collaborate on environmental and pension issues.

Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan held a joint cabinet meeting recently and signed two key agreements, including a Memorandum of Understanding on Carbon Capture and Storage Technology and Policy, which focuses on advancing cooperation on energy research and technology.

"Collaboration in the west has best positioned our provinces to lead Canada both economically and in the development of clean energy technologies such as carbon capture and storage," says Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. "By joining forces with B.C. and Saskatchewan, we can better develop and deploy this innovative technology, helping to meet climate change objectives and make us international leaders in this technology."

The premiers also signed a Western Economic Partnership. The partnership will create a broad western inter-provincial trade agreement to create the largest barrier-free trade and investment market in Canada.

The partnership will also enhance collaboration on international marketing, innovation and procurement.

"I am pleased that we are one step closer to completing the Western Economic Partnership that we committed to at our last meeting," says Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. "This partnership will break down unnecessary trade barriers and facilitate cooperation on international marketing, innovation and procurement."

The premiers also reiterated their commitment to develop options for a new regional voluntary pension plan for workers who do not have an employer-based plan. Premiers expressed concern that only 20 percent of private sector workers in the three provinces are covered by employer pension plans.

"It is unacceptable that so many of our citizens are not in a position to take advantage of an employer-sponsored pension plan," says B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell. "We are all firmly committed to working together to develop an option that will provide a pension plan for those workers not currently benefiting from such a plan. We will continue to lead the country on this issue as we work cooperatively to move this matter forward."

The premiers’ discussion also highlighted the importance of Canada’s relationship with the U.S., and the need to ensure that trade occurs in a stable, rules-based framework. A joint mission to Asia to further explore trade and investment opportunities with the western provinces will be undertaken by the premiers in spring 2010.

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