A Progressive Conservative Manitoba government would promote free trade and work to strengthen business relationships with Western Canada if elected, leader Brian Pallister says.
"We will foster freer trade and stronger partnerships for our Manitoba companies and for the families they employ," Pallister said in a statement Tuesday.
As part of their "10-point economic strategy," the PCs would focus on getting Manitoba into the New West Partnership Trade Agreement with Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Pallister has said in the past he would commit to joining the agreement if elected.
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Pallister said based on Manitoba's natural resources, manufacturing industry — and its location smack dab at the centre of North America — the province is a "gateway" to other markets that the PCs would take advantage of to boost the economy and create jobs.
Last year, Saskatchewan started limiting some Crown corporation contracts to businesses within the trade zone, and Alberta announced preferential pricing for craft breweries based in the three provinces.
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The NDP said Pallister's free trade plans show he is more concerned with the interests of corporations than people.
"His narrow approach to the economy is limited to only business interests, while excluding working people, universities and colleges, community organizations and non-profits and indigenous voices," an NDP spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. "He's fixated on an isolated regional trading block, instead of improving trade with the entire country."
NDP Leader Greg Selinger has said Manitoba trades as much to the east as the west, and he is focused on improving a national trade deal called the Agreement on Internal Trade.
Pallister said there is nothing to prevent Manitoba from being part of both a national trade deal and a regional one.
Manitobans head to the polls April 19.