Ahead of the issues
Upcoming trade talks and pot legalization top items in premiers’ meeting
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.
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.