The Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) passed a resolution at their summit in Big Sky Montana this week calling for Congress to create U.S. – Canada Commission to strengthen economic ties over the next 20 years.

KGVO spoke with PNWER Executive Director Mike Morrison about the resolution and the gathering at Big Sky. He said Senator Jon Tester is behind the plan 100 percent.

“I talked with him about this resolution that that we did pass with legislators,” said Morrison. “There were probably about 70 legislators from around the region. The region, of course is Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Northwest Territories. So, there are five Canadian jurisdictions and five U.S. states.”

Even though the border has been for the most part closed between the U.S. and Canada, the trade relationship between the two countries is the largest in the world.

“This is a really important time to take stock of how we manage the border and how we manage the relationship,” he said. “It is the largest trading relationship in the world between Canada and the US. After a lengthy discussion at our executive meeting, we passed an action resolution calling on Congress to establish a U.S.- Canada commission to examine the impacts of the pandemic and look out over the next 20 years and make specific recommendations on how to strengthen the relationship.”

Morrison said there is still lingering anger over the fact that President Biden cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline on his first day in office, causing massive problems in Canada and in northeast Montana.

“You know, we all need to be focused on energy reliance, security and energy resilience and we are stronger together than we are separately,” he said. “However, it is a sore point I think for a lot of people that that the Keystone Pipeline has not gone forward or, you know, in was nixed in the first day of the President’s term. So, my other concern is of course for the Albertans. They're looking at East, West, North, any other way to get their oil to the tidewater.”

Morrison also said Montana is in a strategic position when it comes to hydrogen storage.

“We also looked at the future of hydrogen and how Montana is perhaps right in the middle of a 20 year, hydrogen hub that could revolutionize the way energy is stored in the nation with an opportunity to have long term storage for renewable energy,” he said.

Unfortunately, many Canadian officials could only attend virtually, since the border from Canada into the U.S. is open only to ‘essential travel’.

The PNWER summit in Big Sky concludes on Thursday, August 19.


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