Canada's premiers meet in Toronto today

Elias Hubbard
December 3, 2019

Moe, who is chair of the Council of the Federation, says all of the premiers will come to the meeting with various priorities and differing opinions, but the goal is to find a few issues on which they have common ground.

Health care was a top issue, and the premiers agree in their calls for the federal government to boost health transfers to provinces by just over five per cent. B.C. Premier John Horgan wants a cash commitment from Ottawa before expanding to pharmacare: "meaningful to our budget so we can deliver the healthcare that people need".

These demands, alongside Kenney's threats from early November to exit the Canada Pension Plan, could all be used as bargaining chips with the federal government, the Alberta premier said.

"We're going to have a real productive meeting today and I think it sends a clear message to all of Canada - all the provinces and the territories and along with the federal government and the rest of the world - that we may have our differences, but we're united as a country", he specified.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also credited his fellow premiers for addressing regional economic disparity, particularly in his province, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Moe said this meeting is very important because it was requested by premiers in the wake of the federal election. "Don't start broadening health care when you can't get it right now".

"It's a program many feel is not fair to all provinces in this nation but it's also a program many provinces do rely on in this nation".

Saskatchewan's Scott Moe and Alberta's Jason Kenney are expected to call for changes to the equalization formula, but there's unlikely to be consensus on that around the table.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said a premiers' meeting in Toronto was a win for the province when his counterparts agreed to back his call for more relief from federal transfers during tough economic times. The premiers are unanimously calling on federal government to lift the cap on that program, give us retroactive payments: "This would be worth upwards of a couple billion dollars".

Kenney thanked his fellow premiers for making amendments to the Fiscal Stabilization Program a priority.

"They were unwavering in their support for recommended changes to the Fiscal Stabilization Program", he said. I'm going to preclude what British Columbia is going to say (and) what Quebec is going to say. They say it could help meet emissions reduction targets.

Under the banner of economic competitiveness, the premiers talked about improving federal environmental assessments by exempting projects under provincial or territorial jurisdiction from mandatory impact assessments and working to eliminate protectionist measures, such as those on softwood lumber.

While Monday's proceedings were generally loose and gregarious, a moment of tension emerged when they were asked at a joint press conference about Quebec's controversial Bill 21, which bans public sector workers from wearing religious symbols and has been criticized for being discriminatory.

They also talked about developing resources responsibly and getting them to all markets, but the somewhat vaguely worded communique does not specifically reference pipelines, an area of disagreement among the premiers.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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