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Ontario moves to strengthen trade ties to Alberta

Ontario Minister for Economic Development Brad Duguid

John Morstad/The Globe and Mail

Ontario and Alberta, which clashed earlier this year over the economic benefits of the oil sands, are sending each other the same message: no hard feelings.

For the second time in two weeks, a minister from Canada's largest province had warm words for its western counterpart, expressing hope Ontario can cash in on Alberta's oil-soaked fortunes. Brad Duguid, Ontario's Minister for Economic Development, on Wednesday said he wants to help companies in his province do more business in the energy industry.

"We're looking at different ways we can increase our presence and that could mean a number of different things," Brianna Ames, press secretary for Mr. Duguid, said in an interview. "We understand there's a lot of opportunity for Ontario companies in Alberta."

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Ontario already has a Toronto-based official working part-time on ties between the two provinces, Ms. Ames said, but it would be "speculation" to say a full-fledged trade office is on the way.

Mr. Duguid's push for Ontario companies comes after his province's finance minister, Dwight Duncan, visited Alberta at the end of September and pledged support for the oil sands. He came to smooth over relations between the provinces after Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he would prefer a weaker Canadian dollar, which would boost the manufacturing sector, to a strong loonie, which is thanks to the booming energy industry which has brought prosperity to the west.

Alberta is thrilled about Ontario's turnaround. "We're very pleased that Ontario recognizes the value of collaboration and a presence in Alberta. I think it really shows that Alberta is the place to be," said Mark Cooper, a spokesperson for Alberta's International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Cal Dallas. "We really appreciate Ontario's effort to reach out in recent weeks."

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