Stephen Harper, Jim Prentice hold 1st meeting in Calgary
Discussion focuses on Alberta's economy, energy and need for skilled labour
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice held his first meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Calgary on Friday.
The meeting was the first between the pair since Prentice was sworn in as premier after winning the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party's leadership vote in September. He had formerly served as Harper's aboriginal affairs minister and environment minister.
The meeting focused on Alberta's economy, energy and the need for skilled labour in the province, according to a news release.
Prentice had said last month that labour policy, including temporary foreign workers, would be top of mind for him in his first meeting with the Prime Minister.
The federal government introduced new rules in June to limit the number of foreign workers that large- and medium-sized companies are permitted to hire. The changes are aimed at ensuring Canadians are first in line for jobs.
Prentice said the new rules are making it very difficult for some businesses to fill jobs and hopes to work with Harper on a solution.
Alberta continues to face alabour shortage, as many residents are lured by the money in the oilsands and are not willing to work in retail or fast-food industries.
The province and its oilsands engine have led the nation in growth during the past 20 years. Despite 100,000 newcomers a year, Alberta has grown heavily reliant on temporary foreign workers.
As of December 2012, there were more than 68,000 temporary foreign workers in Alberta — 20 per cent of the Canadian total.
Aboriginal relations also addressed
Prentice and Harper also spoke about the need for strengthening relationships with aboriginal people.
Prior to becoming Alberta's premier, Prentice had worked with Enbridge as their point man to try and revitalize stalled pipeline talks between the oil company and First Nations opposed to its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
Prentice campaigned on that experience and has highlighted the importance of market access for Alberta oil during his time as premier so far.
Northern Gateway was approved by the federal government in June with 209 conditions and the Alberta Energy Regulator approved the Grand Rapids pipeline from Fort McMurray to Edmonton with 26 conditions Friday.
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has called Grand Rapids the "mother of all pipelines" and says higher-profile pipelines like Keystone XL and Energy East would not be able to go ahead without it.
The project is a 50-50 partnership between Calgary-based TransCanada and a unit of PetroChina.