Regional agreements were reached in six key areas and four themes of importance to the Atlantic provinces were discussed as the premiers and ministers from the region met today, Jan. 18, at Sackville, N.B. “We all share the challenges of an aging population, worker out-migration, and a shrinking tax base,” said Premier Rodney MacDonald, who led discussions under the theme of Demographics and Educational Attainment. “Each of our governments has agreed to co-operate in the development of common curriculum, and related resources for assessment and accreditation where possible. “We have also committed to moving forward with our recruitment, retention and competitive market strategies to help address these growing concerns.” The meeting included presentations and discussions on a number of topics under four themes: demographics and educational attainment; wellness and healthy living; energy and the environment; and innovation and economic progress. Regional agreements were also concluded in energy, health and wellness, literacy, aquaculture, procurement and transportation. New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham, who chaired the session, thanked the premiers — including P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz and Newfoundland and Larbrador Premier Danny Williams — and ministers for attending the meeting held at Mount Allison University. “I believe we can significantly accelerate economic growth in the Atlantic region by working together where it makes sense,” said Mr. Graham. “Our investment in time and energy to ensure continued strategic collaboration between our four provinces will pay dividends for Atlantic Canadians.” ENERGY Through the Council of Atlantic Premiers, Energy ministers were directed to gather ideas for collaborative energy projects. The ministers presented and signed the Atlantic Energy Framework for Collaboration. Among the framework objectives is the desire to provide a climate in which Atlantic Canadians enjoy the environmental, social and economic benefits of energy efficiency, regional generation of electricity and renewable energy development. HEALTH AND WELLNESSUnder the theme of wellness and healthy living, premiers and ministers recognized the important role of healthy lifestyles in healthy child and youth development, healthy aging and reducing the risk of chronic disease. The Resolution Concerning Atlantic Collaboration on the Promotion of Health and Wellness, signed by the premiers, targets the potential of combining efforts and enhancing initiatives to promote healthy food choices, physical activity and reduction in smoking. LITERACYLiteracy was raised under the theme of Demographics and Educational Attainment. Premiers and ministers agreed that strategic action to promote and improve literacy within the region was essential. Premiers signed the Resolution Concerning Literacy, which, among other things, endorsed the efforts of the Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training to host an Atlantic forum on literacy in April in Saint John, N.B. AQUACULTUREPremiers and ministers discussed common interest in fostering the development of the aquaculture industry for mutual benefit. The aquaculture ministers signed the Atlantic Provinces’ Memorandum of Understanding for the Development of the Aquaculture Sector. The memorandum outlines potential areas of co-operation, including unifying the region’s voice on aquaculture when working with the federal government. PROCUREMENTThe premiers signed a revised Atlantic Procurement Agreement, which augments and extends the positive elements of the agreement signed in 1992, then the first-of-its-kind agreement in Canada. The agreement brings greater access to provincial governments’ purchasing of goods, services and construction by lowering interprovincial trade barriers and removing all forms of discrimination between the four Atlantic provinces. TRANSPORTATION Transportation ministers released Charting the Course: Atlantic Canada Transportation Strategy 2008-2018, which presents a 10-year vision for a state-of-the-art multi-modal transportation system in Atlantic Canada that will support the region’s economic and social development with benefits for all of Canada. The next meeting of the premiers and ministers will take place in Prince Edward Island.