REGINA – Canada’s western premiers discussed ways to diversify their economies in light of plunging oil prices during a teleconference call Monday.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was host on the call that was a substitute for the annual western premiers meeting to save time and money.
Both he and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark noted that their provinces are heavily reliant on resource revenue, but have had to find other ways to bring in cash with the downturn in energy prices.
“We’re talking about oil obviously. It’s gone up and down, and I remember in 2009 it touched under $40 at the time and the province continued to grow. We’re pretty fortunate in Saskatchewan. We’ve been lucky to have a more diversified economy in terms of other resources,” Wall said in the call.
“We need to make sure that with respect to falling commodity prices that other parts of the economy are functioning well, that we can access other markets.”
Clark said other markets has been a boon for B.C., which is seeing significant growth in the Pacific Rim and especially China.
She suggested that isn’t anything new since western provinces have been at the whim of fluctuating commodity prices for years.
“It’s lessons learned. Not just in the wake of the oil price crash,0 which had less impact on British Columbia, but in the wake of some of the other changes that we’ve seen in the natural gas market.
“By now I think most Canadians know that we do need to have diversified economies to protect against it.”
Wall said agriculture and potash are helping to pay the bills in his province, while Clark said forestry and liquefied natural gas will help make ends meet in B.C.
The provincial and territorial leaders also expressed strong support for federal efforts to encourage the United States to act on a recent World Trade Organization ruling to bring an end to country-of-origin labelling of meat products.
Wall said the call was attended by everyone except Alberta’s new Premier Rachel Notley, who miscalculated how long it would take for the swearing-in of her new government in Edmonton.
“We had Alberta officials certainly on the call and I understand what’s happening in Alberta is some significant change,” said Wall.
“We had arranged for the time to accommodate everybody, but apparently the swearing-in ceremony was going to be a little bit later than they thought.”
There was also a detailed discussion on aboriginal children in care, as well as on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
“We’re very much interested in learning from other jurisdictions … as to what they’re doing and sometime the benefits of these kind of conferences — and the conversation that flows from them — is the chance to share best practices and bring them to our own jurisdiction.”
By Bill Graveland in Calgary
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