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.

————

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.