FORD PREPARED TO WALK
FIRST MINISTERS’ CONFERENCE TODAY IN MONTREAL
Ontario premier could walk out if there’s no discussion on carbon tax
Premiers arrived Thursday for a first ministers’ meeting still grumbling about the agenda set by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with one — Ontario’s Doug Ford — threatening to walk out if the program isn’t expanded to reflect a host of provincial priorities.
The tone as they prepared to dine privately with Trudeau on Thursday evening underscored the tensions that seem likely to turn today’s meeting into the most acrimonious first ministers’ gathering in years.
Sources close to Ford said he’s prepared to walk away from the meeting if it does not include discussion of the federal carbon tax, which Ontario is challenging in court.
And when he met Trudeau in person at a downtown hotel for a meeting Thursday, Ford went right at him.
“I’m glad to sit down with you, Justin, and talk about things that matter to the people of Ontario,” he said, as the two sat stiffly in arm chairs several feet apart.
“I’ll tell you what matters to the people of Ontario is the job-killing carbon tax.”
Ontario also wants to talk about finding new jobs for workers affected by General Motors’ plans to close a plant in Oshawa next year and “the illegal border-crossers that are costing our province over $200 million,” Ford said.
Trudeau was generous with Ford, at least overtly, even though federal officials privately expect the premier to do his level best to derail the meeting.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome Doug here to Quebec, to Montreal, my hometown,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to talk about the issues that matter to Ontarians, to Canadians — economic growth, continuing to work hard to create good jobs for the middle class, creating opportunities for everyone.”
Trudeau has said he’ll discuss anything the premiers want to talk about. But that has not quelled the criticism that the written agenda is too narrowly focused on reduction of interprovincial trade barriers and gives too much time to presentations from several federal ministers.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley are pushing hard for the oil price crisis to be given prime time during the meeting. On that score, Notley predicted she’ll have plenty of allies in the room.
“There is really no province in the country that doesn’t owe Alberta to some degree for their schools, their hospitals, their roads. The fact of the matter is Alberta has to do well for Canada to do well,” Notley said before leaving Edmonton.
She noted forecasts for Canada’s economic growth are already more muted because of the low price Alberta is getting for its oil in the United States and its inability to move its product to ports for shipment overseas.
Notley also said she doesn’t want to spend time listening to what the federal government says it is already doing to try to address Alberta’s concerns.
“It just doesn’t make sense ... talking about things that have already happened,” she said. “We don’t need federal ministers to explain to us what they’ve already done. We’re all capable of reading their press releases.”
Moe said he also wants to talk about his demand that the feds repeal Bill C-69, legislation to re-write the rules for environmental assessments of energy projects, which is stalled in the Senate.