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Ontario Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid

John Morstad/The Globe and Mail

The province of Ontario has gone from criticizing the oilsands to opening a trade office in Alberta to capture their economic benefits.

Ontario's minister for economic development Brad Duguid says he is opening a full-time office in Alberta to help businesses from his province make the best of opportunities in the West.

"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," Mr. Duguid told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

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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.

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has made similar comments. He has said the oilsands are artificially inflating the Canadian dollar and hollowing out the country's manufacturing sector. He calls it the definition of Dutch disease — a reference to the Netherlands and how a natural gas find in that country led to declines in manufacturing in the 1960s.

But Mr. Duguid said his government is aware of the value of the oilsands to Ontario business. He estimated that value at $63-billion over the next 25 years.

Stronger links between Canada's largest economy and its fastest-growing one would be good for both provinces, he added.

"It may be a time for Ontario to increase our presence in the province of Alberta in terms of our business supports here. We may want to look at having some more presence here in terms of staffing."

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