Western Premiers meet in Yellowknife

The Western Premiers' conference at Chateau Nova Hotel in Yellowknife.
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The Premiers of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut met in Yellowknife today for the Western Premiers’ Conference.

Notably absent was Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who announced she would not be attending the meeting via Twitter on Monday.

Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman attended in her place, but did not sign off on the communique out of the meeting, which included issues such as pharmacare, the legalization of cannabis and western and northern economic prosperity.

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Hoffman said that while she doesn’t disagree with the other issues discussed in the communique, Trans Mountain is currently Alberta’s number one priority.

“Everyone in Alberta I think knows that it’s nine days from the deadline for Trans Mountain, and this is the item of most importance to the province of Alberta and arguably to the nation today,” said Hoffman.

“We everyday that goes by, give up forty million dollars that could be brought into the country of Canada and recirculated within our own economy instead of sending those resources south of the border and all of the money and jobs that comes with them,” said Hoffman.

“We had one key issue of importance that we were here to discuss, unfortunately we did not get consensus on that item and therefore I thought, while I love pharmacare, while I love the work that we’re doing to ensure that youth and our streets are safe with the legalization of cannabis, all of this costs money,” Hoffman said.

“And we have one way to ensure that we have that money and those resources and that is for us to move forward with this project in the national interest,” said Hoffman.

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Despite the disagreement with Alberta, the other premiers seemed to feel that the meeting was productive.

“I am very pleased with the discussions we’ve had over the past 24 hours here in Yellowknife,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan.

“Alberta made their case, as they always do, in a strong and passionate way,” said Premier Horgan.

“Clearly the Trans Mountain issue has the magnifying glass over it, but we also have other issues that affect our Canadian economic future,” said Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

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“I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by disputing the fact that as we move forward over the next few weeks and months, we need to make continuous progress in raising the gross domestic product of our country,” said Premier Pallister.

“We had some very good discussion,” said NWT Premier Bob McLeod.

“Last night we talked about the state of the federation, we talked about federal relations, carbon pricing, Indigenous rights framework and also internal trade and fiscal transfers,” Premier McLeod said.

The premiers also discussed the issue of internal trade regulations and their impact on the Canadian economy.

“We’re fighting for free trade now in negotiations with our trade partners on NAFTA and yet, you take a dozen beer to New Brunswick and see how that works for you, ” said Premier Pallister, referencing a prohibition-era law, that restricts the amount of alcohol that can be transported from one province to another.

“We’ve got to get some of these 150-year-old issues dealt with, and sooner rather than later,” said Premier Pallister.

“We’re taking money off the kitchen tables of Canadians every single day because we’re not working effectively together as premiers. This is an issue we should be leading on.”

An issue all of the premiers agreed on was their concerns about incoming marijuana legalization. In the communique, the premiers state that the provinces and territories are “undertaking much of the work associated with cannabis legalization, and are incurring significant costs as a direct result of the federal government’s decision.”

“We’ve got just weeks until the federal government legalizes this substance, it’s never been legal before, and they don’t have any idea about the saliva screening tests that are going to be done,” said Premier Pallister.

“They haven’t approved devices yet.That’s where we’re at. So our police are supposed to be stopping stoned drivers on the road and they don’t know how they’re going to test them.”

The premiers also agreed on the need for adequate time for law enforcement to be trained ahead of legalization, as well as a federally funded public awareness campaign about drug-impaired driving.

“We have young men in this country who think they drive better stoned, and they’re going to put their lives at risk and they’re going to put other people’s lives at risk,” said Premier Pallister.

The issue of reconciliation was not mentioned in the premiers statement, but Premier McLeod said that all of the premiers are committed to reconciliation.

“We need to have a better understanding of what the vision is and where the federal government and Aboriginal governments will be working together, and on our part, we’re part of that process,” said Premier McLeod.

“I found it very rewarding to have unanimity around the table with respect to the importance of reconciliation, not just as an economic and social tool but as a social justice element that all of us agree to in our different ways and our different communities,” said Premier Horgan.

“That gives me great hope for the future when it comes to true, genuine reconciliation.”

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