Federal cabinet meeting a chance to press government on N.L. issues

Federal cabinet ministers are going to be hearing about Newfoundland and Labrador issues when they meet in St. John's.

Premier, regional minister all hoping to push provincial issues during meetings

Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O'Regan breaks down the federal cabinet's retreat in St. John's and showing off his home province. 1:57

Newfoundland and Labrador politicians are using the arrival of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the entire federal cabinet in St. John's as an opportunity to try to get movement on provincial issues.

"I wanted to give them as much free time as I could give them. So if they wanted to grab an umbrella and walk downtown and just get a sense of the city, maybe see some of Signal Hill, get a sense of what's around, get a sense of Memorial University," Seamus O'Regan told CBC.

As the new regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador, Seamus O'Regan is hosting the prime minister and the rest of his cabinet colleagues for two days of meetings. (CBC)

O'Regan was sworn in as the new minister of Veterans Affairs and he's now the regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador after the resignation of Judy Foote.

He said last week's population projections are a concern he'll be raising with his cabinet colleagues. Those numbers show a sharp drop in provincial population in the coming decades.

"That is something that I need to bring to cabinet's attention. While urbanization and a lower birthrate is happening right across the country, it is happening faster and more intensely here," he said.

O'Regan said the cabinet will have its own federal issues to discuss, including the implementation of the CETA free trade agreement between Canada and Europe, which will provisionally come into effect  Sept. 21.

Provincial priorities

Premier Dwight Ball will address the cabinet meeting Tuesday morning with his own list of issues he wants cabinet to address.

At the top of the list is the proposal to create a "super-regulator" for major projects, which would include offshore oil and gas, but which the offshore industry and province fear could slow down projects, which industry officials warned could send investment elsewhere.

O'Regan acknowledged there is a valid concern.

Premier Dwight Ball will address the federal cabinet Tuesday, with concerns over new approval for offshore oil and gas projects at the top of the list (Todd O'Brien/CBC)

"We need to let them know that this is a very competitive global industry," he said.

"Comparable jurisdictions do this much faster than we do already on environmental assessments."

Ball will also raise changes to the federal tax rules for small businesses. The government said the changes are meant to close loopholes used by the rich to pay less tax, but small businesses have said the changes are unfair.

Even though it's a federal issue, it came up during Ball's recent consultations with business groups on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The premier is also looking for federal co-operation on a provincial inquiry into Innu children in care.

While the federal government has responsibility for First Nations groups, so far it hasn't agreed to participate in the inquiry.

The meetings will happen Tuesday and Wednesday.

Trudeau and cabinet are expected to speak to reporters Wednesday afternoon after the meetings wrap up. After that, he's set to take a hike up Signal Hill with his youth council.

About the Author

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.