Premier urges in­ter­provin­cial co-op­er­a­tion on truck­ing and en­ergy

Winnipeg Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - DY­LAN ROBERT­SON dy­lan.robert­[email protected]­

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.

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