Alberta closing offices in Ottawa, Chicago and Munich

The province will close its foreign trade offices in Ottawa, Chicago and Munich, as well as suspend proposed locations in Brazil and California, as it deals with a massive budget shortfall.

The province spent just over $15 million on its international offices in 2014-15. Premier Jim Prentice said Wednesday’s announcement would save $3.1 million over the next two years. 

“We cannot reasonably ask Albertans to tighten their belts if the government is not willing to tighten its belt as well,” he said.

Prentice added the province will focus on the “most effective” trade offices, particularly those in emerging markets in east and southeast Asia.

“Alberta is, of course, an export-driven powerhouse; we thrive on trade,” he said. 

Prentice said the province was not shying away from running international offices. Alberta will strengthen its existing presence in India, as well as open a new office in Guangzhou, China. 

He also said the London foreign office would become a hub for the government’s European interests.

“It’s a question of focus, it’s a question of priorities,” he said. 

Prentice said it was a “debatable point” whether Alberta ever needed an office in Ottawa.

The closures will affect six employees. 

Focus on developing world: report

Prentice originally promised a review of the province’s foreign offices while running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives.

The review, done by diplomat Ron Hoffmann, made a total of 23 recommendations. In addition to the closures, Hoffman recommended turning Alberta’s Hong Kong office into a regional hub for the province’s Asian relationships.

He also suggested the creation of a “Red Tape Reduction Task Force” to streamline the work of the remaining office.

Hoffman said while the United States and Europe are still important markets, Alberta has to focus on developing nations that offer more chances for growth.

“This is about doing, frankly, more with less,” he said Wednesday.

The province has accepted all of Hoffman’s recommendations.

MAP: Alberta’s international offices

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