Premiers unite in single voice demanding money for struggling oil sands
The leaders of Canada’s provincial and territorial governments showed a united front on Monday in demanding more money from the federal government for healthcare and for provinces facing economic hard times.
The 13 premiers – who have diverse party affiliations – gathered for the first time since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected in October.
According to Reuters, the group known as the Council of the Federation called on Trudeau to increase federal funding for the public healthcare system, which is run by the provinces, before moving to expand coverage for prescription drugs, a key Trudeau election pledge.
The premiers also urged that a federal program designed to help regions mired in an economic slump be strengthened.
“I am very happy with the progress that we made in our fight for fairness,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told Reuters after the meeting, referring to the economic aid program. Kenney, a political conservative, lauded the “united voice of premiers across the country” in supporting the measure.
Trudeau gained the most seats in Parliament in October’s federal election, but fell short of a majority and failed to secure a single seat in either Alberta or Saskatchewan, the heart of the country’s struggling oil industry.
There has been a growing sense of alienation in Alberta and Saskatchewan since the 2014-15 global oil price crash, which has driven up unemployment and hurt growth in the western provinces.
The premiers want the government to make the transfer system “more responsive to economic circumstances and downturns in resource sectors,” they said in a joint statement.
Trudeau last month appointed his former foreign minister, Alberta-born Chrystia Freeland, as his deputy and put her in charge of relations with the provinces and territories.
There was no immediate comment from either Trudeau’s or Freeland’s offices.
The unexpected consensus that emerged from the meeting, which was held in Mississauga, Ont., may spell trouble for Trudeau, who will need the premiers’ support if he wants to fulfill his election promise to introduce a national prescription drug plan.