Penticton MLA Dan Ashton stepped into a new position this week, taking over as president of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region at the international organization’s 26th annual summit in Calgary.
Ashton has been B.C.’s representative to PNWER since 2014 and was elected to the executive last year as vice-chair. Ashton, who is serving his first term as MLA, is also Chair of Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services and a member of the Treasury Board.
Ashton said the new duties as PNWER president mesh well with his others.
“There is a lot of crossover with being with finance, and I bring that light to the presidency. I also am a firm believer in the Pacific Northwest. I always have been and always will be,” said Ashton.
PNWER, he said, is important to both the province of B.C., and to the wider Pacific Northwest region.
“This is our century. Trade is moving to the west and the far east. We are so strategically located and this is such an incredible organization for that,” said Ashton. “When you have everyone working together on that, from Alaska to Montana, it makes a difference.”
Established in 1991, PNWER is a statutory cross-border group, with involvement from the public and private sectors in 10 jurisdictions: B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
PNWER’s goals are to promote greater regional collaboration, enhance the competitiveness of the region in domestic and international markets, leverage regional influence in Ottawa and Washington, D.C., and achieve continued economic growth while maintaining the region’s natural beauty and the environment.
In a media release, Ashton praises the work of outgoing president, Idaho Senator Curt McKenzie.
“I look forward to building on his successes, and moving forward on key initiatives that will strengthen our state and provincial partners in the Pacific Northwest,” said Ashton.
As president, Ashton will chair the executive committee, the decision-making body responsible for reviewing all activities of the organization. This will allow B.C. to advance regional priorities including invasive species, transportation, energy, and market access. This role will also be an opportunity to profile several B.C. priorities, including liquefied natural gas, climate action and leadership, and trade throughout the PNWER region.
Ashton said the Calgary summit drew more than 500 participants, and B.C. played some prominent roles with Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, co-chairing the mining session and participating on a policy maker’s panel on energy development. Ashton also participated in a legislative panel on invasive species.
B.C. government staff also delivered presentations covering tourism, forest fire funding, collaborative forest management, marketing products using beetle-kill timber, methane emissions reduction and liquefied natural gas.
Learn more: PNWER – Pacific NorthWest Economic Region