Last week two of the most powerful women in the Pacific Northwest signed a series of agreements that could reshape cross border relationships for decades to come.
BC Premier Christy Clark and Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire (see left) announced a series of agreements to strengthen their cross-border partnerships, attract investment and create new jobs.
'Building strong working partnerships, as Washington and British Columbia have done, make our region stronger, safer, and more competitive,' said Governor Gregoire.
'Over the years, these collaborative efforts have led to quicker border crossings, upgraded rail service, and emergency preparedness. Today's meeting will have the same long-lasting impact that will help continue to help our economy, families, and environment.'
'Over the past six years, Washington and British Columbia have built a relationship that is truly unique in North America,' said Premier Clark.
'The more that we talk to each other, the more we recognize our goals are the same: safe communities, a clean environment, and jobs to support families. And by working together, I'm very pleased we're able to agree on concrete, specific actions to help us reach our goals and better serve our citizens.'
The 2012 Action Plan on Jobs maintains the strong partnership between Washington and British Columbia on border management and cross-border infrastructure development to make the region more globally competitive while ensuring borders are safe and secure.
As part of the plan, Gregoire and Clark signed a joint letter to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper commending the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan and committing British Columbia and Washington to support and expedite federal commitments to improve the flow of people, goods and services across the border.
Other key features of the 2012 Action Plan on Jobs include:
- Actions to better align and maximize opportunities for energy efficiency, clean transportation, and low-carbon energy, including natural gas.
- Developing a regional jobs and investment strategy to leverage 'clean economy' opportunities across West Coast jurisdictions.
- Specific measures to enhance regional transportation co-ordination and efficiency, ranging from improved information sharing and analysis, to the AMTRAK Cascade Corridor, to the identification of future border and highway infrastructure needs.
The meeting set the 2012 priorities for environmental co-operation, including preparation for the removal of Japan tsunami debris.
Other topics included joint emergency preparedness plans for major earthquakes and promoting the Pacific Northwest Emergency Management Agreement as a model for a broader North American Mutual Aid Agreement.
The governor and premier signed a proclamation celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the WA-B.C. Environment Cooperation Agreement.
Since their first cabinet meeting in 2005, Washington state and B.C. have built a unique bilateral working relationship unlike any other Canada-U.S. interaction. This partnership has resulted in a number of mutual benefits including:
- The Enhanced Drivers' License travel document as well as additional, quicker border crossings with added NEXUS and FAST lanes.
- Technology improvements such as web-based public communications about border conditions.
- Considerable financial investment for roads and rail services, including upgrading the rail line used by Amtrak trains through the B.C. Lower Mainland.
- Resources and support during emergencies through the Pacific Northwest Emergency Management Arrangement.
- Formalized cross-border collaboration on preparation, response and recovery for public health emergencies, such as pandemic flu and the West Nile virus.
British Columbia and Washington, along with Oregon and California are the subjects of a major review to determine the job creation and investment potential of the Pacific Coast region's emerging clean economy. The study is being undertaken by GLOBE Advisors, a division of the GLOBE Foundation, in partnership with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Climate Strategies and other organizations.
The results of this review will be made public as part of an upcoming Pacific Coast Collaborative Leaders Forum involving Premier Christy Clark and Governor Chris Gregoire along with California Governor Edmund G. Brown and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber.
The Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC), is an association of the states of California, Oregon, Alaska and Washington and the province of British Columbia, originally formed in 2008 in recognition of the unique and shared circumstances of all the jurisdictions on the West Coast of North America.
In 2010, at the inaugural PCC Leaders Forum, leaders from British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington signed a series of joint action agreements to create jobs, strengthen the Pacific Coast economy, advance action on climate change and clean energy, and protect the marine environment.