Prairie provinces sign Memorandum of Understanding to build new economic corridors

With Canada's Prairie provinces consolidating support to keep natural resource development a provincial jurisdiction, Alberta's government is lauding that Western Canada is open for business.

Prairie provinces sign Memorandum of Understanding to build new economic corridors
The Canadian Press / Jason Franson, Liam Richards, Chad Hipolito
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On Tuesday, United Conservative Party signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba to encourage new economic corridors across each province that bolster growth and collaboration while strengthening their position in the global market.

"Alberta is proud to partner with Saskatchewan and Manitoba, taking a leadership role in building new trade corridors that will help our provinces and our country," said Devin Dreeshen, Alberta's Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors.

"New nation-building projects need government cooperation and political will. We need to cut red tape. We need to [build] things like we used to. We need to prioritize good jobs and affordable life," he said. 

Over the past decade, the UCP said regulatory uncertainty, anti-development policies, and a lack of national leadership cost provinces billions of dollars in growth and investment and killed thousands of jobs.

"The message from investors is clear — Canada's onerous and uncertain regulatory environment continues to hurt the investment attractiveness of the country's oil and gas industry," said Elmira Aliakbari, director of the Fraser Institute's centre for natural resource studies and co-author of the latest Canada-US Energy Sector Competitiveness Survey.

The survey said, "The federal government's stance on petroleum production has deterred investment," citing "an overall hostility to petroleum companies in Canada that is very palpable in Eastern Canada." The respondents criticized the country's inability to build pipelines and handle land claim disputes for "deriding the oil and gas sector."

Senior energy executives also criticized Canada's "unpredictable provincial governments" for discouraging significant capital investment into energy infrastructure.

As of 2020, Canada has lost $150 billion in energy investment opportunities since Justin Trudeau became prime minister in 2015, which would have generated tax revenues and jobs for local businesses.

Tuesday's memorandum looks to harmonize provincial regulations and ensure a regulatory process is set up if a project's scope lies outside regional boundaries. 

"We can start to show people that Canada is a place you can do business again," said Dreeshen, adding that Canada hasn't seen big nation-building projects "for quite some time" — like the transcontinental railway, which connected Canada through improved travel and trade. 

The three provinces committed to working cohesively in eliminating regulatory inefficiency and uncertainty to attract and develop nation-building projects. Economic corridors link regional markets and can involve a broad range of infrastructure, including transportation, energy, power, telecommunications and other utilities.

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta exported more than $138 billion in goods in 2021, including $48 billion in non-pipeline exports.

"The world needs what Saskatchewan has to offer. We rely on dependable, robust road, rail, air and port networks to ship our food, fuel and fertilizer across North America and around the globe," said Jeremy Cockrill, Saskatchewan's Highways Minister.

"We will encourage our federal partners to play their part in supporting infrastructure and protecting the supply chains in this country," he said.

"Manitoba's unique gateway and hub initiatives cannot develop in isolation. That's why external cooperative partnerships will leverage our initiatives for success," said Doyle Piwniuk, Manitoba's Transportation and Infrastructure Minister.

"With similar trade and transport access such as distance to markets, reliance on international ports and railway services, and similar commodity basis, Saskatchewan and Alberta are natural key partners to work with on improving trade enablement through transportation."

Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors said the memorandum would also identify opportunities to attract private sector investment and partner with indigenous communities on these developments.

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