LETHBRIDGE: Premier Ed Stelmach says long-term planning means Alberta should do well in weathering recent financial storms. At a press event in Lethbridge Monday, Stelmach told reporters Albertans should worry less about falling markets sparked by America's credit downgrade.
"I'm certainly concerned about what's happening down south and that is why we've been working with the private sector to access more markets around the world, especially Asia," he said. Stelmach says increasing Asian access to Albertan resources, especially oil, is the best chance for sustainable economic growth.
When the U.S. economy was healthy, that country was the number one purchaser of Canadian products, buying 80 per cent of the country's exports. Now that our neighbour is on shakier ground, Stelmach says we need to increase ties with stronger economies in Asia.
"I am confident that Americans will recover but it will take many, many years to do that and we can't wait for it," said Stelmach. "My responsibility as a trustee on your behalf, because you are the owners of the resource, is to get the best price possible, and that's in Asian markets today."
He pointed to other examples where branching out to Asia was successful. A partnership between B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta to increase lumber exports to China has now shifted the balance for that resource. For the first time in history, more Canadian lumber is being sold to China now than to the U.S.
"We have what China needs - and that is wood fibre, energy and food," Stelmach said. "Over a hundred million families in Asia are moving up the social economic ladder from poverty to middle class. They're going to be demanding higher quality food and more energy. So we have this unlimited opportunity as Albertans."