The provincial premiers’ meeting at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., under the Council of the Federation banner, just wrapped up. I’ve posted on two big-ticket issues featuring federal-provincial friction—job training and infrastructure funding. But much more was discussed. Here’s selective notebook on topics associated with some premiers:
- British Columbia’s Christy Clark and Alberta’s Alison Redford. Their clash over proposed pipelines crossing B.C. to take Alberta oil to a new Pacific port overshadowed last year’s premiers’ confab in Halifax. At the very end of this year’s edition in Ontario wine country, they held a joint news conference to announced they’ve appointed top officials to work on the issue. No details on how they might find common ground, but they evidently both wanted to signal an ability to work together.
- Redford was also preoccupied with the multibillion-dollar matter of rebuilding infrastructure in the wake of last month’s massive flooding in southern Alberta. She repeatedly stressed that the federal government should make new money available to help pay, and that her government “doesn’t want to hear” that previously existing federal infrastructure funds should be allocated to post-flood recovery projects.
- Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall. His high-profile proposal to abolish the federal Senate was briefly discussed by the premiers, but there was no indication that Wall converted any of his provincial peers to the cause. In fact, several voiced the opinion that getting rid of the upper chamber, or otherwise reforming it, is a low priority or even a distraction. Wall was a leader, though, in forging cooperation among all provinces to combine their buying power and get lower prices for a lengthening list generic and brand-name drugs.
- Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne. In her first time chairing the annual summer premiers’ gathering, host Wynne garnered some highly positive reviews, notably from B.C.’s Clark, who praised her at the premiers’ joint closing news conference. Wynne took the lead on the infrastructure file. She looked recalcitrant, though, in balking at lifting Ontario’s ban on consumers ordering wine from other provinces; Clark had pressed her to follow B.C.’s lead by ending the interprovincial import restriction.
- Quebec’s Pauline Marois. The separatist premier refuses to participate in the council’s Canadian Energy Strategy (neither will B.C.’s Clark). But Marois seemed perhaps surprisingly open to talking about the most contentious energy file on her desk. She said it “might be interesting” to meet this fall with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Kathy Dunderdale over the complex, longstanding dispute about electricity pricing from Newfoundland’s Churchill Falls dam, which is related to its planned Muskrat Falls development.