PALLISTER PUSHES TO BREAK BARRIERS
Premier urges interprovincial co-operation on trucking and energy
While big-ticket items such as the carbon tax and plunging oil prices got much of the attention at the first ministers meeting in Montreal, Premier Brian Pallister was targeting interprovincial trade. “I wanted these things resolved 20 years ago,” Pallister says /
MONTREAL — Premier Brian Pallister is challenging his colleagues to come forward when they’re responsible for the patchwork of laws and regulations that impede economic growth.
“What we have to start doing is being more transparent as provincial leaders on what we’re doing and what we’re not doing. And if some of the premiers don’t want certain regulatory changes, they can say so,” Pallister said as he left meetings with the other 12 premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Montreal.
While other premiers focused on the federal carbon tax and Alberta’s plunging oil price, Pallister said his months-long push to break down barriers to interprovincial trade is bearing fruit. He also said Ottawa is hinting at support for a transmission line to send some of Manitoba’s hydro power into coal-dependent Saskatchewan.
While he voiced support for helping Alberta get its oil to market and briefly decried the federal carbon tax, Pallister struck his own path Friday by focusing on trade rules and requirements that vary by province.
Statistics Canada estimated last year those barriers mean Canadians pay what’s effectively a 6.9 per cent tariff on goods from other provinces.
“I wanted these things resolved 20 years ago. That being said, we’ve made more progress in recent months than we’ve made in long, long time as a country,” Pallister told the Free Press.
In July, Ottawa and the provinces identified 23 issues for their departments to sort through, but postponed dealing with trucking requirements, such as fuel permits and the timelines for semi-trailer registration.
“Some of our trucking companies, I’m told, have had to change tires at provincial borders, just crazy stuff,” the premier claimed.
The trucking industry has a strong foothold in Manitoba, and Pallister said he “should have something to announce fairly quickly” around harmonizing their tire regulations.
Pallister pointed out that territories will likely need their own rules because their roads are constructed differently than in the provinces. For him, it’s an example of legitimate differences that some jurisdictions will have to hold onto while others cut red tape that doesn’t serve a purpose.
“Each of these things on their own don’t sound like a big deal, but they add up. And there are hundreds and hundreds of these types of impediments.
“Perfection’s been the enemy of the achievement of any real progress,” he said, “because when you need everybody to agree, they don’t.”
Pallister also said Ottawa seems open to supporting a project that aims to send some of Manitoba’s hydro into Saskatchewan; he said Trudeau was “excited” about the idea of “a hydro pipeline” from Quebec to Saskatchewan, at least.
In late October, Manitoba Hydro inked the largest of three recent deals with SaskPower to send electricity to the neighbouring province for two decades beginning in 2022, through a transmission line announced in 2015.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe didn’t give details on what Ottawa said, but explained that the discussion came in the context of Alberta’s struggles to get oil to market and the need to better link and export all forms of energy.
“We talked about the opportunities for corridors between our nation for all energy products,” he said.
“It’s incumbent on us to maximize that value.”
The premier said in a teleconference with reporters that it was a “win-winwin” for weaning Saskatchewan off coal-fired power, providing Manitoba an outlet for its excess hydro production and helping Ottawa meet its carbon-reduction targets.
“We’ll be pursuing that with enthusiasm,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pallister had little to say about the federal carbon tax, which Ottawa will impose on Manitoba next year after the premier scrapped his own flat tax two months ago.
“I’m not interested in having a fight with the prime minister today on this issue. But ultimately we have to agree to disagree on this approach,” he said.
On the eve of the meeting, media focused on premiers threatening to walk out or, in one case, dismissing federal briefings as “fluff.”
The acrimony seemed to dissipate Friday, although Ontario Premier Doug Ford slammed Ottawa, claiming it had moved its climate change goalposts by asking Ontario to cut more greenhouse gas emissions.
Premiers otherwise seemed content, but pointed to little concrete progress on virtually any issue.
Pallister said it was a productive six hours of discussion.
“The prime minister’s a congenial human being and he, I think, did an admirable job of building on that goodwill as we went through the meeting,” he said.
“The reality is: we’re thinking people, so we’re not always going to agree.”
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, in Montreal for the first ministers meeting on Friday, said his months-long push to break down barriers to interprovincial trade is bearing fruit.
Several inconsistent provincial trucking requirements, such as fuel permits and timelines for semi-trailer registration, have yet to be resolved.
Pallister says Ottawa is hinting at support for sending some of Manitoba’s hydro into coal-dependent Saskatchewan.