Executive Director’s Notebook: Western states have common bonds with western provinces

Western Governors’ Association staff members and policy advisors for Western Governors took part in a tour organized by Global Affairs Canada and the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia from Sept. 9-13, 2018. In advance of the meeting, the following op-ed by WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury was published in the Edmonton Journal, The Province in Vancouver, and the London Free Press in Ontario.

By Jim Ogsbury

Not long after I became executive director of the Western Governors’ Association, I was privileged to join Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on a trade mission to Alberta.

I distinctly recall one of our Canadian hosts opining that, as well-intentioned as our respective founders were in establishing nations that extend from coast to coast, they may have been well-advised to consider a north-south orientation while nation-building.

To be sure, it seems that in many ways the Western United States have more in common with Western Canadian provinces than they do with their brethren states toward the Atlantic. As a Coloradan, the Rocky Mountain environment and economy and culture of Alberta was more familiar to me than the chaos of Boston or the bayous of Louisiana.

One striking similarity of western states and provinces is that our national governments, situated far from the mountains and plains of the vast West, do not always have the clearest understanding of the challenges facing our region. This geographical circumstance underpins much of our work at WGA, a fiercely bipartisan organization representing the policy interests of 22 Western governors.

Setting partisan politics aside, the governors use WGA as a mechanism to develop common-sense solutions to the problems of the region and nation. They also employ WGA to leverage their collective influence and resources to affect national policy.

For example, they have developed a suite of detailed recommendations to improve the management of national forests and rangelands in the West. Adoption of these suggestions by Congress and the administration will have positive impacts on public lands for decades to come.

Similarly, the governors have worked together to improve species conservation, mitigate the impact of drought conditions and enhance the prospects for economic development in rural communities. Of course, these and countless other issues are common to Western provinces, which is one reason WGA so values its relationships with our neighbours to the north.

Those relationships will doubtless be strengthened as WGA embarks on a study tour organized by Global Affairs Canada and the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

Participants in the tour will include WGA staff and senior policy advisors for Western governors. Traveling throughout Alberta and British Columbia, we will have the opportunity to tour oilsands operations in Fort McMurray, meet with high-technology executives in Vancouver, inspect a paper mill near Maple Bay, and discuss environmental policies in Edmonton.

We will also engage in conversations about NAFTA, tariffs and trade. Although governors do not establish national trade policy, they are vitally interested in commerce with their Canadian trading partners. WGA Policy Resolution 2018-14, International Trade, acknowledges the importance of trade with Canada and articulates the governors’ “support (for) federal trade policies that provide stability and predictability to Western producers.”

WGA is very grateful to our Canadian hosts for this exceptional opportunity to learn more about Western Canada and strengthen the platform for ever greater co-operation between our regional governments.

We’re also pretty excited about the poutine and BeaverTails.

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or send an email. Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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