Province no longer content to put all its eggs in US basket

By Staff

Edmonton – Tuesday afternoon’s Speech from the Throne largely focused on growing Alberta’s economic pie by no longer placing most of its eggs in the United States’ basket, and tapping further into emerging Asian markets.

“Our province has relied on a single customer – the United States,” said Lieutenant Governor Donald S. Ethell Tuesday afternoon, reading from the throne speech. Etholl went on to say the United States currently accounts for 85 per cent of Alberta’s exports and that Bill 1 would enhance linkages with Asia.

The Asia region includes key markets, including India, China, Japan and South Korea. When combined, the region accounted for $6.9 billion of the province’s $69 billion in 2009 exports.

Bill 1, the Asia Advisory Committee Act, was tabled by Premier Stelmach immediately following the throne speech. Stelmach said the Asia Advisory Committee would consist of 10 members drawn from a cross section of interests and areas of expertise, including business, cultural and academic. The premier said the diverse group of members would provide advice and perspective as the province seeks to expand its interests in increasing its trade with Asia. The council would make recommendations on how to increase export development, attract investment opportunities and increase tourism and air service linkages with Asia, something the throne speech identified as essential to further developing trade.

The council will be required to submit an annual report to the government. Should the Asia Advisory Council Act pass, the council will operate until Dec. 31, 2014, and the term could be extended if required.

“One thing the global recession made clear is that Alberta can no longer rely on a single market of 300 million people – not when there are prosperous markets of more than a billion people we have yet to tap,” Stelmach said in a statement released after the legislative session was adjourned Tuesday afternoon. “Countries like China and India are developing rapidly, and there is growing demand there for products Alberta has, including food products, energy and wood fibre. We need to take advantage of these opportunities.”
The statement was similar to ones the Premier made Feb. 16 when he announced the signing of agreements with the North West Upgrading (NWU) / Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) Partnership, a refinery project whose owners also have their sights set on Asia.

Other highlights
The Speech from the Throne also outlined additional plans the Progressive Conservatives have in store. The speech identified a plan to add another 1,000 continuing care spaces in 2011, and an additional 5,300 by 2015. Additionally, the province plans to introduce stiffer legislation to further protect victims of family violence, implementing Alberta’s Gang Reduction Strategy, completing a groundwater mapping and inventory program, and working to ensure broadband access is available to every home in the province.

The fourth sitting of the Alberta Legislature resumes Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.

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