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British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell, left, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, middle, and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach after signing the New West Partnership Agreement at Government House: One for all; all for one. (TROY FLEECE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell, left, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, middle, and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach after signing the New West Partnership Agreement at Government House: One for all; all for one. (TROY FLEECE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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We are stronger as one than if we stand apart Add to ...

For centuries, the world's economic power was centred in trade and commerce based in, and between, eastern North America and Europe. In the 21st century, the world's economy has tilted. The largest and most powerful economies will soon belong to Asia, and the trade and commerce that drive North America's economy will be centred in the West. Within our lifetime, the centre of economic power in Canada will no longer be Central and Eastern Canada. It will be the West. For that we must prepare.

Just over a year ago, the governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan met for our inaugural joint cabinet meeting. We knew then that it is critical that we break down unnecessary barriers between our provinces. Yesterday, we transformed words into action by announcing The New West Partnership. The New West Partnership recognizes the strong economic foundation of the West and the benefits of co-operation - co-operation that will foster lasting prosperity for the region, our people and our businesses.

The global economic crisis taught us we must work together. We cannot afford to allow internal borders to stifle opportunity or permit antiquated ways of thinking to continue to impede our ability to move forward with new ideas with new partners.

This new partnership opens up the West to the opportunities of the 21st century. The agreement creates the nation's largest interprovincial barrier-free trade and investment market. It combines the power of Canada's three westernmost provinces - nine million people and a collective GDP of more than $550-billion. We believe Western Canada can be the nation's economic catalyst as we emerge from the recession.

The New West Partnership allows us to share our expertise, build on our shared strengths, encourage the creativity of our innovators, and expand our presence around the world. Together we will:

Enhance the competitiveness of our region by removing barriers to trade, investment and labour mobility. A skilled worker from one province will not have to unnecessarily prove their qualifications in another province;

Co-operate on international missions and join forces abroad so that our regional strength and boundless opportunities be known around the world. As a concrete first step, in two weeks we will undertake a joint trade mission in Asia. We want the New West Partnership and the Near East to be a source of opportunities for our citizens.

Collaborate to create a hub of innovation for the country. Collectively, we want to support innovation to strengthen and diversify our economy as the world is changing.

Achieve cost-savings for our taxpayers by combining the buying strength of our three provinces. We have a responsibility to taxpayers to get best value for their dollars. If we can save money by pooling our resources and combining our knowledge, we need to seize those opportunities.

We are stronger as one than if we stand apart. With one voice, the West will be a leader on issues that are vital to the nation's competitiveness.

Canada desperately needs a true Open Skies policy. We encourage the federal government to negotiate agreements in order to increase air traffic in and out of Western Canada. When flights into our major cities are limited due to the absence of a true Open Skies policy, flights become less accessible and more expensive. A shift to Open Skies would cost taxpayers nothing but could potentially add hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and create new jobs across the country.

We believe in one project, one process for environmental assessment. Our current system forces projects to undergo repetitive dual environment assessment reviews at both the provincial and federal level. This unnecessary overlap is wasteful, confusing and imposes significant costs and delays upon investment. The New West Partnership will work with the federal government to craft a single thorough, methodical, comprehensive environmental assessment.

The global economy is a reality, and as neighbours we need to reach out and form strategic partnerships that allow us to mutually benefit from our shared objectives. We are all Canadians and our experiences have taught us that more can be accomplished by working together. The New West Partnership will help Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia become stronger both as provinces, as a regional power in Canada and abroad.

Brad Wall is Premier of Saskatchewan, Ed Stelmach is Premier of Alberta and Gordon Campbell is Premier of British Columbia.

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