Forging Stronger Ties with Western Canada
By Wyoming Rep. Rosie Berger, 2012 CSG West Chair
The CSG West 65th Annual Meeting in Edmonton provided a unique opportunity for Western policymakers to grasp a better understanding of the political, economic and social linkages between the Western U.S. and Canada, particularly the Province of Alberta. We learned of Alberta’s unique spirit of individualism, opportunity and connection with the land and its resources that are driving its growth and competitiveness.
Based on the development of western Canada’s energy resources, particularly of the oil sands in Alberta, there are emerging economic and political power shifts from central Canada to western Canada. These shifts, along with demographic trends, were the focus of the Westrends Board meeting during the annual meeting, as well as the North American Summit, a forum within the annual meeting that brings together state and provincial leaders from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to discuss issues of common interest.
Despite emerging political and economic trends—as well as the fact that Canada is the first ranked foreign supplier of petroleum to the U.S. and a significant trading partner—most Americans have a limited understanding about our neighbors to the north. In many of our communities, there is a limited understanding that many of the goods sold in our local supermarkets were manufactured in a process that included components, labor, packaging and shipping across the three North American countries.
As state leaders, we must continue to expand the knowledge base of the interdependent linkages between the Western U.S. and Canada. The fact of the matter is that our futures overlap. We are a community of shared interests, common dreams and coordinated responses to problems that have no regard to borders.
We recently approved the establishment of a CSG West–Canada Committee. The purpose of the committee is to strengthen ties and cooperation between lawmakers of the 13 U.S. Western states and the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, which are valued associate members of CSG West. The establishment of such a committee will provide a distinct focus and a forum for the exchange of information on issues of common interest, such as border crossings, energy, water and the environment.
We also envision that the committee would serve as a vehicle for strategic collaboration with key federal stakeholders in both Canada and United States to ensure that the interests of our shared border region are promoted. Moreover, as an organization that has the distinct geographical and programmatic linkages to both Canada and Mexico, the committee would be an important conduit to engage with lawmakers that comprise the Border Legislative Conference along the southern border as part of the North American Summit.
The 13th annual Western Legislative Academy will convene in Colorado Springs, Colo., Nov. 13–16 for intense legislative skill-building in governance, ethics, communications, negotiations and time management. Thirty-nine newer legislative “students” have been selected for the Academy.
CSG West last summer launched WESTRAIN, a pilot speaker’s bureau project to bring legislative effectiveness training directly to state capitols. California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Nevada were selected as pilot states. WESTRAIN offered training in communications/public speaking, time management and ethics.
65TH ANNUAL MEETING
The CSG West 65th Annual Meeting convened in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, July 20–23. With the theme of “Western Frontiers—On the Edge of Innovation,” the meeting allowed Western legislators to collaborate on regional and international issues of common interest, and learn about the innovative approaches developed by Alberta in energy, health and economic development.
Nonpartisan legislative staff directors from the Western region met in their annual Legislative Service Agency/Research Directors Fall Training Seminar in early October in Park City, Utah. Members of the LSA/RD Committee participated in both “outside” management training and “inside” sharing of best legislative management practices.
More than 50 legislators from the 10 U.S.-Mexico border states convened March 28–30 in Sacramento, Calif., for the 25th Border Legislative Conference. In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the BLC highlighted the forum’s achievements and recognized former BLC chairs. Speaker John A. Perez and Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg recognized past BLC chairs with resolutions and recognized all attending legislators.
State legislators from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington met Aug. 20–21 in Boise, Idaho, for a meeting of the Legislative Council on River Governance, a CSG West program that facilitates cooperation and exchange of information on water management issues along the Columbia River Basin. Issues included water quality challenges, federal biological opinion for the Columbia and Snake rivers, water rights adjudication, spring runoff and water flows, water infrastructure needs, the Clean Water Act and agriculture land irrigation.
WORLD WATER FORUM
Washington Sen. Karen Fraser and Montana Senate President Jim Peterson participated in the Sixth World Water Forum in Marseille, France, in March. The forum is the largest gathering of international stakeholders aimed at sharing ideas and solutions for global water concerns. Fraser and Peterson discussed water concerns with leaders from around the world and shared their perspectives and insights on the development of water management in the American West.