Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe will be front and centre this week as Canada’s premiers meet at the Council of the Federation meetings in Saskatoon.
It is the first national meeting hosted by the Saskatchewan premier.
Former premier Brad Wall welcomed Canadian premiers to Regina in 2009. In fact, Wall was roughly 620 days in office at the time; Moe is roughly 520 days into his time as premier.
The agenda this week includes immigration, trade, strategic infrastructure and strengthening the Arctic.
“To create more jobs in Canada, we need to work together to remove barriers to internal trade in our country, strengthen trade with our trading partners, and diversify our export markets,” said Moe in a statement.
The premiers also plan to discuss health care costs, mental health and addictions during the meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.
“The declining federal share of health-care costs has many implications for provinces and territories. We will continue to explore ways to ensure health-care sustainability and accessibility for all Canadians,” said Moe.
For the first time since 2008, there will be no women at the table. Rachel Notley’s defeat in the Alberta election in April meant all 13 provincial and territorial leaders are men.
Another theme emerging is the growing block of conservative premiers. Provincially, only Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have Liberal governments. British Columbia has an NDP government. The remaining seven provinces are led by centre-right parties.
The alliances are in some cases obvious; Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario have been aligned against the federal government’s carbon tax. Moe also has a similar alliance when it comes to the approval of pipeline projects. The recently approved Trans Mountain pipeline is opposed by B.C. Premier John Horgan.
On Monday, Quebec and P.E.I. said they would be joining Saskatchewan’s Supreme Court challenge of the carbon tax, with Alberta and Ontario also intervening. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said his province would support Saskatchewan’s appeal but would not launch its own carbon tax challenge.
Historic meeting on Sask. First Nation
For the first time in history, the Council of Federation meetings were held on a First Nation. On Tuesday, the premiers met with Indigenous leaders, including Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron on Big River First Nation, 200 kilometres north of Saskatoon.
“It was truly a historic day, the first time that premiers have had the opportunity to meet in a First Nations community with engagement with our Indigenous organizations and we thank you so very much for being an important part of history today,” Moe said.
After meeting with nine of of Canada’s 13 premiers, Bellegarde said there are no simple solutions that will satisfy all sides of the Trans Mountain pipeline debate, but excluding Indigenous leadership will only lead to bad policy.
“When you involve First Nations people, whether you are talking about the duty to consult and accommodate, whether you’re talking about free prior informed consent, whether you’re talking about balancing the environment and the economy — when you have First Nations people at those tables, you find that good balance,” Bellegarde said.
This year’s meeting marks the first time since 2016 that Bellegarde has accepted the Council of the Federation’s invitation to meet with premiers. This year’s meeting touched on economic development and services for Indigenous children and families.
He said the premiers need to address the quality of life disparity that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“I always point out the gap that still exists. According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Canada is rated 12 in terms of quality of life. But for First Nations people, we are 72.”
Bellegarde’s attendance at the meeting with premiers ended a boycott that the AFN launched in 2017.
Moe on the move
Over the past two months, Moe has spent time meeting with his provincial counterparts. He and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney met and spoke at the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show in June. Kenney also addressed the provincial cabinet. A week later, Moe was in Calgary for the Global Petroleum Show.
At the end of June, Moe was in Edmonton for a meeting with Western premiers and last week was in Calgary for meetings and Calgary Stampede pancake-flipping with Kenney, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Higgs and Premier Bob McLeod of the Northwest Territories.