WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s NDP government is hoping to have a word with Saskatchewan about new trade restrictions that could leave Manitoba companies unable to do some work for Saskatchewan Crown corporations.
Kevin Chief, Manitoba’s minister for jobs and the economy, says the requirements are surprising and he wants to discuss them as soon as possible with Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s minister for immigration, jobs, skills and training.
“I’d like to talk to him a little bit more about the specifics, to try to get his thoughts on this, to be able to hear from him first-hand,” Chief said Friday.
Manitoba also plans to raise the issue at a meeting in Vancouver next week of economic development department staff from all provinces, Chief said.
Saskatchewan started promoting a new approach to government contracts last month, when it listed seven Crown corporations that will “primarily” purchase from jurisdictions who have signed the New West Partnership Trade Agreement.
Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia signed the deal in 2010 in an attempt to reduce trade and investment barriers and make it easier to bulk purchase goods and services. Manitoba is not part of the agreement.
Some Saskatchewan Crown corporations have started stating explicitly in contact offers — for items ranging from trucks to fencing — that bids may be limited to provinces who have signed on to the partnership.
Manitoba considered joining in 2010 but decided against it. The province’s Opposition leader, Brian Pallister, said Friday that was a wrong move.
“By us not being in the New West Partnership, we have moved ourselves away from a stronger relationship with people we should be working with. These are our own neighbours,” he said.
Chief said Manitoba has been more focused on improving trade with all provinces under the national Agreement on Internal Trade, which is being reviewed for renewal next March.
Business groups such as the Winnipeg Construction Association have called on the NDP government to join the regional trade deal, and Pallister has promised a Progressive Conservative government will sign on if he wins the provincial election slated for next April.