Saskatchewan premier likely violating trade agreements, Rachel Notley says

Saskatchewan premier likely violating trade agreements, Rachel Notley says

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is likely violating provincial trade agreements by trying to get a Calgary oil company to relocate to Saskatchewan.

"The efforts of the province of Saskatchewan at this point likely do violate the New West Partnership as well as the AIT [agreement on internal trade]," Notley said at an announcement in Red Deer, Alta., Thursday.

She also suggested the Saskatchewan premier may be hurting businesses in his own province that benefit from trade agreements that give them access to larger markets like Alberta.

"I would suggest that it wasn't necessarily the wisest approach by the political leadership of Saskatchewan to do that," Notley said.

"That [New West Partnership] trade agreement actually promotes back-and-forth business operations that contribute to prosperity on both sides of the border."

The issue erupted Wednesday after it was revealed Wall sent a letter to Whitecap Resources, a company based in Calgary, offering incentives to move to Saskatchewan.

Wall said he has done nothing wrong.

"We're going to tell that story; we've been doing this for a long time," Wall said Thursday.

"I ask companies every time we meet with them if they would move their headquarters or increase their presence, that's why Mosaic is here, they moved their regional headquarters from the U.S."

Wall's office sent a statement in response to Notley's comments. 

"Jurisdictions across Canada offer incentives of varying kinds. This is not unusual," said Kathy Young, Wall's chief 
of operations and communications, in an email. 

"We are confident our ongoing efforts to attract business and investment to Saskatchewan are within the provisions of the New West Partnership."

Carbon pricing quarrel

Wall's letter said that unlike Alberta, Saskatchewan doesn't have any form of carbon pricing. Notley said that isn't true unless "Saskatchewan is planning to leave Confederation between now and January 2018."

The federal government will impose a carbon pricing scheme on all provinces that don't already have a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system in place by that date.

Notley said she would review the trade agreements with Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous to see if Alberta needs to respond.

The New West Partnership is a trade agreement between British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The agreement states that no party to the agreement "should entice or assist the relocation of an enterprise from another party." 

Wall and Notley sparred earlier this month after Saskatchewan released a budget that cut services and raised the PST by one percentage point, measures the NDP premier said she would never take. 

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said premiers have had arguments before, but the Notley-Wall dust-up is unique, given how Alberta conservatives revere Wall. 

"You have got the conservatives in Alberta, the conservative opposition in Alberta, really looking to Brad Wall for leadership," Bratt said.

"Brad Wall, especially with the defeat of Stephen Harper, has become the most powerful conservative politician in this country."