|Canadian premiers met in Charlottetown, P.E.I., last week for the annual Council of the Federation, hosted by P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz. Throughout the week they discussed issues relevant to Canadians, including an inquiry into missing aboriginal women, internal trade barriers, federal funding, and a national energy strategy.Talks began with premiers and aboriginal leaders proposing a roundtable to address missing and murdered aboriginal women after the federal government dismissed the potential for a national public inquiry. Premiers are calling on the federal government to meet with key ministers to discuss the issue. The premiers also committed to working on “a socio-economic action plan” at the next national aboriginal women’s summit in Cape Breton in October.
Internal trade between the provinces and territories was a major topic of discussion. Premier Christy Clark, Alberta Premier Dave Hancock and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced a plan to work together to bring down internal trade barriers through their New West Partnership. Western Premiers are hoping that the deal will act as a model for other regions of Canada. Wall highlighted a number of inefficiencies in the system, including the need for first-aid kit manufacturers to comply with 10 different sets of regulations in order to operate across the country. Further, he noted that that companies outside Ontario face a 10 per cent premium if they want to bid on procurement in that province.
The provinces and territories are seeking more federal funds to be dedicated toward health care and infrastructure. In regard to health care, they are calling on the federal government to set up an ‘aging innovation fund’ to help pay for increasing costs. They have highlighted what they view as a fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces. Although the federal government is contributing to health care funding, Premier Ghiz stated that this funding is not keeping pace with changing demographics and aging populations, which are having significant impacts on the provinces. Currently, the federal government provides the provinces an annual six per cent increase in health care funding, which is guaranteed until 2016-17. After that point, increases will be tied to growth in nominal gross domestic product, a measure of GDP plus inflation – guaranteed at a minimum of three per cent.
The Premiers concluded their annual meeting with an agreement to move forward on a national energy strategy. The provinces and territories have agreed to work together to produce a plan after years of talks, in which B.C. and Quebec were previously resistant. B.C. announced support for the initiative last fall; Quebec support stemmed largely from the election of a federalist government last April.