The prime minister should meet Canada’s premiers more often so the federal and provincial governments can work together on everything from the economy to infrastructure, federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
Trudeau met with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne before a scheduled Friday gathering of premiers in Ottawa. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is skipping the session, as is his custom.
There hasn’t been a full-blown conference of the country’s “first ministers” since 2009.
That ought to change, Trudeau said after the meeting with Wynne, adding that he welcomed a debate in the House of Commons on a Liberal motion calling for such conferences every year.
We have to be able to grow and adapt
“We have to be able to grow and adapt,” Wynne agreed. “Together as a nation, with all the leaders working together.”
Canada’s economy is facing turbulence from cheaper oil and a dollar that’s losing value against other currencies, she said. The provinces are starting to work together on energy and climate-change policies, in the absence of federal action. These problems would be easier to tackle with the federal government’s co-operation, if not leadership.
Harper prefers to meet provincial and territorial premiers one-on-one to avoid the inevitable pile-on the federal government usually goes through with premiers’ meetings.
A couple of notable western conservative premiers who are generally allies of Harper – Alberta’s Jim Prentice and Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall – will skip the Council of the Federation meeting Friday.
Prentice has said he’s busy working on the provincial budget, while Wall said he’s looking to cut travel costs and will join via teleconference.
Trudeau, facing an election this year in which he hopes to revive Liberal party fortunes, emphasized the importance of “co-operation and collaboration,” in contrast to Harper’s go-it-alone style.
Though both Wynne and Trudeau are Liberals and he campaigned with her in last spring’s provincial election, Wynne was careful not to take too partisan a stance. All federal party leaders should meet the provincial premiers, she said, and all would be welcome.
With the health of our economy and the jobs of so many Canadians at stake, why does the prime minister continue his political petulance and refuse to even meet with the Council of the Federation?
Harper is using Friday to unveil his government’s new anti-terrorism bill. The prime minister is to make an announcement at 12:30 p.m. in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto. He’ll be joined by Justice Minister Peter MacKay, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and fellow Conservative caucus members.
The Conservative government came under fire Thursday in the House of Commons for Harper’s refusal to attend the first ministers’ meeting.
“With the health of our economy and the jobs of so many Canadians at stake, why does the prime minister continue his political petulance and refuse to even meet with the Council of the Federation?” NDP deputy leader David Christopherson asked.
Paul Calandra, the parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, noted Harper and his ministers regularly meet with their provincial counterparts.
Harper, alone, has held more than 300 meetings with premiers since taking office in 2006, Calandra said.