Talking to the Neighbours over the Fence Post-COVID: The renewal of province-state engagement

Hon. James A. Richardson Roundtable

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

With a new U.S. administration and border closures during the pandemic, provinces and states are now poised to pick up talking “over the fence” to work on common issues. While western governors will not be meeting in person for at least several more months, western state legislators will meet in person this summer and their Canadian colleagues will be there as well. This is the first chance for western governments to begin to reassert western interests and concerns into a North American policy space that has otherwise largely been driven by Ottawa and Washington D.C. A slate of issues – rumbles in parts of the U.S. about the revival of some form of country of original labelling (COOL), reopening the border, regional approaches to influence national policies on energy transition and how to build back better in a post-pandemic world – are among the many issues where western voices are needed.

How has the dynamic changed between the western provinces and U.S. states under the Biden administration, and what are some items that western provinces should have on the agenda when meeting with western U.S. states? What issues will each side have to press to ensure that they are on the table for discussion? What are the range of options that Western Canadian provinces have for working with U.S. counterparts and how are we doing in using them?

Join Trade & Investment Centre Director Carlo Dade and policy analyst Marissa Dimmell for a presentation mapping out specific areas of potential province-state cooperation and engagement. This will be followed by a Q and A session with: Oryssia Lennie, former Deputy Minister for Western Economic Diversification Canada; Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf, Alberta’s representative to the Council of State Governments (CSG) Midwest and West; Canada Relations Committee U.S. Co-Chair, Alaska Senator Tom Begich; Former Business Council of Manitoba President and CEO Don Leitch; and Economic Development Lethbridge CEO Trevor Lewington.

Attendance is limited


Oryssia Lennie

Oryssia J. Lennie was a Canadian civil servant and former Deputy Minister of Western Economic Diversification Canada. She is also the recipient of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s 2002 Award for Excellence in Public Administration. In December 2016, she was appointed to the Order of Canada.

Oryssia was Deputy Minister for Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) from 1997-2009. The department promotes the development and diversification of the western Canadian economy and advances the interests of the West in national economic policy. Activities include supporting the development of new and innovative technologies, expanding entrepreneurship, and investing in community economic development, and undertaking research and advocacy initiatives.

Prior to joining WD, Oryssia worked for the Alberta government for 26 years and was Deputy Minister of Federal and Intergovernmental Affairs from 1990 to 1997. She has had extensive involvement in constitutional and aboriginal constitutional negotiations and intergovernmental negotiations on social, economic, international trade, and internal trade policy. Oryssia was a Director on the board of the Canada West Foundation from 2010-2019 and Chair of the Board from 2017-2019.

A graduate of the University of Alberta, Oryssia has received numerous awards for her accomplishments in public service and in the area of business and management, including the University of Alberta Alumni Honour Award (2015), the Peter Lougheed Award for Leadership in Public Policy (2014), the Lieutenant Governor’s Gold Medal for Excellence in Public Service (2002) and the YWCA Women of Distinction Award (1997).

Senator Tom Begich

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich represents Alaska’s largest downtown district and its surrounding areas in Anchorage. He has held the honor since 2014. Senator Begich is passionate about advancing early childhood education, alternative energy, and equity. In Alaska’s 32nd Legislature, he serves on the Education, Ethics, Health and Social Services, World Trade, and Rules committees.

Outside of his public service duties, Senator Begich owns and operates CW Communications, a firm devoted to strategic planning, facilitation, and communications. He specializes in juvenile justice, education, community development, strategic planning, and media and government relations.

In the past he worked as an aide to two Alaska State House Majority Leaders and Chief of Staff to the Alaska State Senate Caucus Chair. He also served as the Community Justice Coordinator for Alaska, and as the National Chair of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. He is an alumnus of Bard College, The University of Alaska, and attended Oxford University. Over the past 40 years he has served on numerous boards and commissions in Alaska.

Senator Begich is also a professional musician and writer with seven released CDs, several published nonfiction article, one published book of poetry.

MLA Nathan Neudorf

Nathan Neudorf was elected as the Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Lethbridge-East on April 16, 2019.

Mr. Neudorf is the chair of the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future, a member of the Special Standing Committee on Members’ Services, the Standing Committee of Public Accounts, and the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing.

Mr. Neudorf has extensive experience in commercial construction. He has his civil and structural engineering diploma and is a red seal journeyman carpenter as well as a gold seal project manager.

An active community volunteer and leader, Mr. Neudorf served as the past president of the Lethbridge Construction Association and on the board of directors for the Alberta Construction Association, Alberta Construction Safety Association, and Worker’s Compensation Board.

Mr. Neudorf, his wife, Deanne, and their five children live in Lethbridge. In his spare time he enjoys running, landscaping, and spending time outdoors.

Don Leitch

Don Leitch is the past President & CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba and has extensive executive experience in both the public and private sectors. He served as the Clerk of the Executive Council and Deputy Minister to the Premier in Manitoba for over eleven years, that position being the most senior civil servant. Don also served as Deputy Minister for economic development, trade and investment, and tourism in British Columbia and was CEO of Travel Alberta. Don has been a senior member of several major economic and public policy commissions and reviews. He has also been on many panels and has been a commentator on economic and policy issues.

Don brings a wealth of board experience having served on numerous boards and committees provincially and nationally, including the boards of the Forks-North Portage Development Corporation and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. For several years Don has been on the International Advisory Committee of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and was elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in June 2017.

Don continues to advise and consult with various organizations in the public and private sectors.

Trevor Lewington

Trevor Lewington is the Chief Executive Officer for Economic Development Lethbridge. With many years of executive leadership experience in the food processing industry, in addition to many years living the trials and tribulations of a small business owner combined with additional roles in the public sector, Trevor strives to provide a broad-based perspective and collaborative approach which will enhance initiatives that drive continued economic growth in southern Alberta. A recent example includes the start up of a municipally controlled corporation in Ridge Utilities Ltd to provide retail energy marketing across southern Alberta.

Trevor holds a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Human Resource Management, completed a Change Leadership Certificate with Cornell University and is a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR). He also holds a Senior Certified Professional credential from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM-SCP). Trevor is also a Certified Logistics Professional (CCLP) through the Canadian Institute of Traffic and Transportation. Trevor also holds the ICD.D designation from the Institute of Corporate Directors.

Trevor is engaged and involved in his community and serves as the Mayor in the Village of Stirling where he resides. Trevor is on the Advisory Board of the Dhillon School of Business at the University of Lethbridge. Trevor is also an active member of the Board of Directors for Economic Developers Alberta (currently serving as President) and the Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL Hockey Club. Trevor is also a Director of and Corporate Secretary to Ridge Utilities Ltd.

Sought out as a keynote speaker, trainer and master of ceremonies for a wide range of conferences and events, Trevor enjoys engaging with an audience in a way that actively involves participants while providing thought provoking messages that stimulate people to take action.