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Atlantic premiers go looking for piece of Alberta economy in tough times

CALGARY - Despite the current economic downturn, a group of Atlantic premiers says Alberta's economy remains strong and businesses in their provinces want a piece of it.

CALGARY - Despite the current economic downturn, a group of Atlantic premiers says Alberta's economy remains strong and businesses in their provinces want a piece of it.

New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham and Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz, along with senior ministers from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, are in Calgary on a trade mission, hoping to drum up business and investment capital for companies and projects back home.

"Imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery and ... we are working to transform New Brunswick into an energy hub for the eastern seaboard to become Canada's next Alberta," Graham told a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Monday.

Premier Ghiz acknowledged the entire country is in the grip of a recession and many people might ask why Atlantic leaders would head off on a trade mission to Alberta.

"First and foremost, Alberta's economy is still the strongest in North America, if not one of the strongest in the world," said Ghiz. "I personally believe, and I think we'll see, that Alberta will be one of the first economies to start to recover when the world economy makes its turnaround - most likely sometime over the next year or two."

The two premiers, joined by Shawn Skinner, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and Nova Scotia Attorney General Cecil Clarke, were scheduled to meet with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach on Tuesday.

The four men say they hope the interprovincial trade door will swing both ways as a result of their meetings, resulting in business investment between all the provinces.

Graham noted that there are a number of industrial projects in New Brunswick that have helped grease the economic wheels in Alberta.

"We've already seen a number of Alberta-based companies benefit from that development. We also have a number of companies here today that are doing business here in Alberta that has benefited our economy in New Brunswick."

Skinner, whose job is to drum up trade for Newfoundland and Labrador, said the drop in the economy doesn't mean that investment interest in on the wane.

He collected a half dozen business cards in a few hours from people interested in opportunities in the region.

"There are still opportunities. There are still people looking to invest and we're trying to match those up," Skinner said.

Geoff Pradella, acting chief executive of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said the Atlantic delegation coming to Alberta during an economic downturn is "just good business."

"Engaging in discussion with business is always about increasing trade and increasing business opportunities and it's an opportunity for people to sit down and discover opportunities they weren't aware of."

 
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