Business leaders and Politicians Meet in Whistler BC for Economic Summit

The Pacific Northwest Economic Region, or PNWER, summit is happening right now in Whistler British Columbia.

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The annual gathering of business leaders and politicians from Western Canada and the Northwest states alternates between the two countries each year. Last year, meetings were in Anchorage. At least 11 of Alaska’s legislators are attending.

Gas and Arctic issues are a big focus this year. David Ramsey is the Northwest Territories minister of industry, tourism and investment and the newly appointed PNWER president. Ramsey say the Northwest Territories and Alaska have a lot in common: small population in a large area rich in resources – many of them stranded. He says the focus in the Northwest Territories has shifted to oil, because lower gas prices have left their McKenzie gas line proposal sitting on a shelf.

“At some point in time that might change, but for now I think we’ve got to switch gears and put our focus into oil and the prospect of an oil pipeline north from Alberta, which would get close to the Beaufort coast and then through the Yukon and then into Alaska and that’s the discussion that I think really needs to happen,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey says greening the supply chain is an important industry initiative because Alaska and Canada are on the front lines of climate change. He says alternative fuels and hydro development can help mitigate global warming and create jobs. He says a focus of his year-long presidency will be to encourage greater participation by Native communities.

“I’d like to see representatives from each of the 10 jurisdictions in PNWER have aboriginal leaders come to the conference and participate,” Ramsey said. “I think it’s very healthy for the organization to be doing that and also it helps connect the aboriginal leaders to a myriad of business leaders that they’re involved in PNWER and also legislators, decision makers.”

Ramsey says Arctic security and the current concerns with Russia are a big concern, saying it’s frightening that cooperation with Russia in the arctic may not be forthcoming. The PNWER summit wraps up tomorrow.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for Alaska Public Media. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for nearly 30 years. Radio brought her to Alaska, where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting before accepting a reporting/host position with APRN in 2003. APRN merged with Alaska Public Media a year later. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.