Ahead of the is­sues

Up­com­ing trade talks and pot le­gal­iza­tion top items in pre­miers’ meet­ing

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCH MACDON­ALD

P.E.I. Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan says he’ll con­tinue meet­ing with P.E.I. ex­porters be­fore up­com­ing North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment rene­go­ti­a­tions with hopes of strength­en­ing trade ties.

The rene­go­ti­a­tions and pre­par­ing for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis were two key is­sues dis­cussed by Cana­dian pre­miers dur­ing the Coun­cil of the Fed­er­a­tion meet­ings in Ed­mon­ton Tues­day.

MacLauch­lan said the main discussion of the day cen­tred on NAFTA, with Cana­dian am­bas­sador to the U.S. David MacNaughton join­ing the pre­miers to dis­cuss ne­go­ti­a­tions that will start in Au­gust.

“We’ve been work­ing on this with a very strong lead­er­ship role be­ing played by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and prime min­is­ter to get ahead of this is­sue,” said MacLauch­lan.

More than 70 per cent of P.E.I.’s mer­chan­dise is ex­ported to the U.S., which MacLauch­lan said is val­ued at up­wards of $900 mil­lion.

“So it’s some­thing we, of

course, are pay­ing very close at­ten­tion to,” said MacLauch­lan, not­ing that he met with ex­port­ing firms from P.E.I. about the is­sue last week.

MacLauch­lan said pre­miers have been ap­proach­ing the is­sue as a pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity to strengthen trad­ing re­la­tion­ships.

“That’s the op­por­tu­nity that comes with this. You have to be alert to any risks that come with it, and I’m very con­fi­dent the Cana­dian fed­eral gov­ern­ment and rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Wash­ing­ton have been work­ing the right way with the prov­inces,” he said.

On Mon­day, the U.S. re­leased a pa­per iden­ti­fy­ing is­sues the ad­min­is­tra­tion is look­ing for in the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Pre­miers dis­cussed other eco­nomic growth is­sues, in­clud­ing look­ing at work­force de­vel­op­ment pro­grams and free trade with China.

They also dis­cussed a num­ber of “key jus­tice and so­cial is­sues,” in­clud­ing the up­com­ing le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis as well as opi­oid ad­dic­tion.

Man­i­toba Pre­mier Brian Pal­lis­ter pushed for a one-year de­lay to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s time­line of next July, say­ing prov­inces need more time to de­velop road­side test­ing pro­to­col.

MacLauch­lan did not say whether he sup­ported a de­lay but noted the fed­er­a­tion has formed a work­ing group to look into the is­sues and re­port back to the coun­cil by Novem­ber.

“We’re wait­ing for that work­ing group and we rec­og­nize this will be fed­eral leg­is­la­tion. The main thing from a pro­vin­cial point of view is to be clear where there are is­sues that need to be ad­dressed or if there are any costs that need to be fac­tored in,” he said.

While opi­oid abuse is more preva­lent in western prov­inces, MacLauch­lan said it is mov­ing across the coun­try.

He said P.E.I. health and jus­tice of­fi­cials have been work­ing to­gether to see what can be learned from other ju­ris­dic­tions now deal­ing with the is­sue.

“It’s about mak­ing sure we have the right po­lice re­sources and med­i­cal re­sponses to be ahead of this,” said MacLauch­lan.

Pre­miers also dis­cussed is­sues on health pro­cure­ment and drug cov­er­age dur­ing the meet­ings, which will con­tinue to­day.

CP PHOTO

P.E.I. Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan, left, Fran­cyne Joe, pres­i­dent, Na­tive Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada, Man­i­toba Pre­mier Brian Pal­lis­ter and Nova Sco­tia Pre­mier Stephen McNeil take part in the pre­miers meet­ing in Ed­mon­ton.

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