CALGARY January 28, 2022

A principal responsibility for Canadian premiers is defending and advancing provincial interests with their direct counterparts abroad.

In the current political environment in the U.S., the destination for over 80 per cent of Alberta’s exports, showing and engaging has become even more critical. Not doing so abdicates responsibility on issues such as energy policy, Country of Origin Labelling for beef, and areas of provincial responsibility. With numerous issues critical to Alberta in play, a premier crossing the border to meet with governors is the definition of essential travel.

Past successes

An example of the value of showing up is the 2017 meeting of the Western Governors Association in Whitefish, Montana where then Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall put the topic of clean energy on the table. His call for cooperation received an enthusiastic response from several governors that led to cooperation between several states and Saskatchewan. This is something that the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., sitting at the table next to Premier Wall, did not and would not do. In 1985, Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed along with then B.C. Premier Bill Bennet presented and garnered early support for the idea of a Canada-U.S. trade agreement at the National Governors Meeting in Boise, Idaho. This was a few months after the idea was agreed to at a First Ministers meeting in Canada and was the first presentation of the idea for U.S. governors.

Unfortunately, participation at the national and regional governors meetings has been spotty, especially among western premiers. Premier Kenney’s participation at this year’s National Governors Meeting is a good start. His participation, along with his western colleagues, at this year’s Western Governors Meeting in Coeur d’Alene will be a highly anticipated next step.

“For subjects that are within provincial jurisdiction premiers need to take the lead with their U.S. counterparts. Premiers are the experts on issues under their jurisdiction and they are best positioned to forge solutions and advocate with their U.S. counterparts.”
– Gary Mar, President and CEO, Canada West Foundation

‘‘Research at Canada West Foundation shows that when premiers sit down to work with U.S. counterparts there’s a track record of accomplishment. And out west when we do meet with them, there’s also a question from governors as to why this doesn’t happen every year.”
– Carlo Dade, Director, Trade and Investment Centre, Canada West Foundation

Further reading:

Talking to the Neighbours over the Fence Post – COVID, July 6, 2021

Hosting U.S. state leaders and big opportunity for Manitoba, July 12, 2018

Briefing Note: Western Governors Association Annual Meeting, June 15, 2017

Open letter to western premiers to attend the 2017 Western Governors’ Association meeting, May 17, 2017

BLOG: Premier Wall’s trip to Iowa a smart more for Saskatchewan, March 15, 2017