Breaking: Premiers declare victory after national meeting

Provincial Premiers met last week at the Council of the Federation in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
Provincial Premiers met last week at the Council of the Federation in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

“Over the past few days at the annual Council of the Federation meeting, we made a great deal of progress on a number of critically important issues to Albertans,” said Premier Alison Redford in a July 26, 2013 media release.

It would be surprising if Canada’s premiers did not claim victory after gathering in cozy and picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake last week for their annual Council of the Federation meeting. While they may not have accomplished all they had aspired to, you will not have seen any of the provincial leaders return home trumpeting a disappointing failure.

The reality is, with the federal government missing from the national discussion, there is little ground available for the premiers to move forward on a pan-Canadian agenda. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has only met with the premiers once since the Conservative Party formed government in 2006 and has refused to renegotiate any of the important interprovincial agreements achieved under previous Liberal governments, such as the Health Accord (which expires in 2014).

While leadership in absentia leads to lack of national focus, it is hard to expect the Prime Minister to willingly show up to be publicly berated by mere provincial politicians. While past Prime Ministers would attend these types of conferences, this may become a thing of the past, even after Prime Minister Harper leaves office. The current Prime Minister operates in a command and control mould, or, as columnist John Ivison writes, “Stephen Harper operates on transmit, not receive.”

In this current reality, how successful can Premier Alison Redford expect her still vague Canada Energy Strategy to be? Despite failing to sell her counterparts on her vision for a national energy plan, Premier Alison Redford – unsurprisingly – claimed victory in last week’s media release.

On the issue of pipelines, Premier Christy Clark and Redford agreed to appoint senior civil servants to find common ground where the two provinces can approach the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. With Premier Clark’s opposition to the pipeline project having played a significant role in this year’s British Columbia election a resolution to the dispute might not be easily achieved in the traditional political arena. Allowing senior public servants to work out the more contentious issues in an environment removed from the the political spotlight may allow the two provinces to find common ground to move forward.

Premier Redford skipped last Wednesday’s meetings with First Nations leaders to meet with representatives of the Insurance Bureau of Canada in Toronto. After last month’s flooding in southern Alberta, the decision to meet with the insurance industry should be popular at home, though questions being raised about buyouts and controversial flood maps could cause political problems for the premier.

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Meanwhile, Premier Redford announced through a press release that Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen has been appointed Associate Minister of Family and Community Safety. The press release stated that the new associate minister will tackle “bullying, cyber-bullying, violence against women and sexual and child exploitation.” As the new position does not direct a ministry, it is unclear what role Minister Jansen will play in the government.

2 thoughts on “Breaking: Premiers declare victory after national meeting”

  1. Good post Dave. I take some issue with a few things, though.

    Another way to describe what you termed ” (Harper)… refused to renegotiate any of the important interprovincial agreements achieved under previous Liberal governments, such as the Health Accord (which expires in 2014)” I would categorize as “Respected provincial jurisdiction and provided for long term stable federal funding. Per the article below: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/in-surprise-move-flaherty-lays-out-health-spending-plans-til-2024/article4247851/

    “The 2004 deal – covering the health, social and equalization transfer programs – expires in 2013-14. The deal included annual 6 per cent increases for health transfers and 3 per cent increases to the social transfer. Mr. Flaherty announced that while the social transfer will continue at 3 per cent, the health transfer will move toward a formula based on economic growth. “We want to put the issue of funding behind us to allow us all to focus on the real issue – how to improve the system so the provinces and territories can ensure timely access to health care when needed,” Mr. Flaherty said after meeting his provincial and territorial counterparts. Under Ottawa’s plan, funding for health would climb from $30-billion in 2013-14 to $38-billion per year in 2018-19.”

    You refer to the Ivison piece but the one quote you chose doesn’t really convey the columnist’s overall take on this, which I largely agree with: “The premiers accomplish more when they aren’t grandstanding against Stephen Harper” – a truth that they tend to ignore, and typically just go on doing instead

    I also very much agree with the thrust of the Coyne piece on this: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/07/26/andrew-coyne-premiers-excel-at-telling-ottawa-what-to-do-while-ignoring-their-own-jurisdiction/

    To paraphrase Coyne, here are a few things the premiers COULD have addressed:
    - stop their professional bodies from discriminating against those who have received their training elsewhere.
    - suppose they just agreed to allow each other’s oil and hydroelectricity to cross their soil without being held to ransom.
    - Suppose, with regard to health care, they agreed to collect and adopt each other’s best practices: not one or two, here and there, but comprehensively, for savings that have been estimated in the billions, not the millions of which the provinces now boast.
    - suppose they simply agreed to put their budgets on the same system of accounts, so the public could have some idea of how much they were spending, relative to each other.

    Certainly there is nothing to prevent the premiers from doing any of these. Because, you see, they all have the inestimable advantage of being within the premiers’ jurisdiction. And yet somehow that is never the order of business at any of their meetings. It isn’t just that they almost never agree to anything that is in their power to do — no, not even the one about the wine. They barely even talk about it.”

    Imagine if the federal government had a conference and did nothing but belly-ache about provincial jurisdiction items while ignoring their own files….

  2. Hey Ryan, politics in general has become a dispiriting topic for most Canadians the current politicians are either too stupid (95%) or just corrupt loyalists too eager to please the corporatocracy and put their own interests first before the public. Even as a centrist, some of us had high hopes for this PM, but one way communication is not the best way for someone to lead. Many of us are waiting for Canada to regain its status as a human rights leader again and push forward to becoming an energy superpower. This group in Ottawa has shown very poor leadership in energy and done nothing to further our ability to sell our products on the international markets. Justin, if he can stay likeable, has the ability to be something of a very great leader and correct the perceptions which were politicized for the last 40 years. Unify all provinces on the energy front with a thoughtful comprehensive energy policy framework, with fair compromises and review transfer payments on more frequent basis, as energy markets can be fickle. Justin will also be able to manage Quebec relations far better than Cons, ND’s take note, the short honeymoon with Quebec has already ended. Recognizing Canada’s energy sovereignty will the key to political stability and economic success.

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