Premiers keep it to­gether — for the sake of the coun­try

Toronto Sun - - NEWS - AN­TONELLA ARTUSO aar­[email protected]­media.com

The coun­try’s premiers — de­ter­mined to stress unity af­ter a di­vi­sive fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign — tip­toed past any po­lit­i­cal mine­fields at a Toronto meet­ing to reach joint po­si­tions on some key is­sues.

The Premiers de­clined an op­por­tu­nity to speak out about Que­bec’s re­li­gious sym­bols bill or some prov­inces’ op­po­si­tion to new pipe­lines, and fo­cused in­stead on ask­ing Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s govern­ment to cough up more fed­eral-health care fund­ing, some­thing they could all sup­port.

The Coun­cil of the Fed­er­a­tion (COF) meet­ing in Toronto Mon­day was billed by Premier Doug Ford as an op­por­tu­nity for dis­af­fected provin­cial voices to come to­gether, af­ter a fed­eral cam­paign that man­aged to pro­voke both Wexit and the rise of the Bloc Que­be­cois.

“This alone, right to­day, sends a very clear mes­sage to peo­ple back in their home prov­inces, sends a mes­sage to peo­ple right across this na­tion and along with the fed­eral govern­ment and the world, we may have our dif­fer­ences but Canada is united,” Ford said. “As you’ve seen in this meet­ing, when some of the prov­inces are strug­gling, we’re all there.”

It was a mes­sage that was stressed over and over again.

Saskatchew­an Premier and COF Chair Scott Moe thanked fel­low premiers for sup­port­ing his home prov­ince, Al­berta and New­found­land in ask­ing for changes to the Fis­cal

Sta­bi­liza­tion Pro­gram to make it more re­spon­sive to down­turns in re­source sec­tors.

“I would say that to­day they had our backs,” Moe said. “And I com­mit to them that we will have theirs when needed as well.”

Ford is be­lieved to have a very prac­ti­cal rea­son for his unity mes­sage -- he’s con­cerned about the im­pact per­ceived in­sta­bil­ity will have on the econ­omy.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign, Ford told the Toronto Sun that he had never seen the coun­try more di­vided and felt strongly that prov­inces should be com­pet­ing to­gether against the world.

Still, thorny top­ics like equal­iza­tion re­main a con­cern.

Al­berta Premier Ja­son Ken­ney made a point of men­tion­ing how much his prov­ince has con­trib­uted to equal­iza­tion -- a pro­gram that spreads fed­eral tax dol­lars around the coun­try to en­sure ev­ery Cana­dian has ac­cess to a rea­son­ably equal level of public ser­vices.

Ken­ney also noted that ap­proval of an in­ter­provin­cial pipe­line should be a fed­eral de­ci­sion.

In a let­ter to Trudeau from COF, the premiers jointly asked him to ad­dress eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness, the Fis­cal Sta­bi­liza­tion Pro­gram, health care and in­fra­struc­ture and northern pri­or­i­ties.

A meet­ing of fed­eral and provin­cial lead­ers is ex­pected in the new year.

POST­MEDIA NET­WORK FILES

The Cana­dian premiers avoided hot-but­ton is­sues — like pipe­lines, for the sake of unity.

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