Yesterday FCM’s Western Economic Solutions Taskforce (WEST) met virtually with The Honourable Jim Carr, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for the Prairies. Taskforce members spoke about the deep economic anxiety facing western communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ongoing pressures in Canada’s energy and forestry sectors—including the cancellation of Keystone XL and uncertainty over Enbridge’s Line 5.
Taskforce members highlighted the active role WEST is playing to support western communities, as well as the progress it’s made so far—such as last year’s $1.7 billion federal investment into cleaning up orphaned and inactive oil and gas wells, which was in response to a key WEST recommendation. Taskforce members urged Minister Carr to make the development of national utility corridors a priority. This should be done in tandem with strengthening the federal impact assessment process to improve predictability and get resources and products to market.
The taskforce also reiterated a number of its recommendations for Federal Budget 2021, and for Canada’s COVID-19 economic recovery, laid out in FCM’s Building Back Better Together document. Those recommendations include investing in Canada’s trade and transportation infrastructure by expanding the National Trade Corridors Fund by $1 billion over three years and investing $100 million through the Rail Safety Improvement Program; increasing the budget for the proposed new Regional Development Agencies for BC and the Prairies by at least $600 million over the next three years; creating a new Energy Transition Community Infrastructure Fund; and supporting a transition to a net-zero emissions future, including through investments that will make Canada a top global hydrogen exporter.
Minister Carr and the taskforce members agreed that local governments are essential partners in tackling national challenges, and that all orders of government need to work together to ensure long-term opportunity and prosperity for western Canadians.