Health care conversation 'put off' in Ottawa, premier says
Premier held off signing climate deal because health care is No. 1 priority, he said
After a day spent discussing climate change with the prime minister and premiers from across the country, Premier Brian Pallister said he felt Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "put off" discussions about health care he wants to see take priority.
Pallister returned to Manitoba on Saturday after a first minister's meeting in Ottawa where he was one of two premiers who refused to sign on to a national climate strategy put forward by the federal Liberals.
- Manitoba will not sign onto national climate change plan
- Trudeau announces 'pan-Canadian framework' on climate — but Sask., Manitoba hold off
The other holdout was Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall.
"The climate negotiation is indicative of what can happen when there is an open and co-operative dialogue and I have complimented the prime minister on that effort," Pallister said Saturday.
"But I am using what opportunity I have in saying not yet, to that, obviously, to try to get this debate about health care moved forward so we can have the same kind of co-operative discussion going forward with health care — which is the most important issue for Canadians — that we have had with climate change."
Pallister also said a "made in Manitoba" climate plan is in the works that will address problems specific to the province.
Throughout the day, he pivoted to talk of more health care funding when asked about his willingness to sign the climate deal.
The group planned to discuss health care over dinner at the prime minister's home.
"It has been frustration for the premiers that we haven't had this discussion before, and last night was a difficult venue for being productive with our talk, because of course between bites of a nice meal and in an environment where you want to be sociable, it's very difficult to raise some of the most pertinent issues," he said.
"We were put off last night. It's understandable, because it was just a brief moment to have that discussion. But it's too important to put off much longer, I think."
Not signing a 'bad move,' analyst says
Political analyst Roger Turenne said Pallister isn't doing the province any favours by not signing onto the federal climate change plan.
He called Pallister's refusal to sign "childish" and "insulting," and said it was a "bad move."
"It's a very bad strategy because Manitoba has not much leverage," Turenne said.
"If you're going to indulge in this kind of blackmail, you should have a lot of leverage and you should have some clout, and Manitoba just doesn't have it."
Turenne, a former adviser to premiers Howard Pawley and Gary Filmon, said the province weakened its position by saying it would go ahead with its own plan to address climate change, and that neither Manitoba nor Saskatchewan are crucial players in Ottawa's plans.
"Whether they sign or not, they're still moving ahead. Both of these provinces are still moving ahead on their own efforts to reduce," Turenne said.
"On balance, it doesn't amount to very much, and it does not in any way prevent the federal government to show up in Paris and say, 'This is our plan, these are our objectives and we're going to meet them.'"
Turenne said Manitoba premiers have traditionally tried to maintain a more friendly and co-operative relationship with the feds.
"It's not a good idea for a new premier to come in and start kicking furniture," he said.
"It means that we've placed ourselves in a conflict situation with the federal government on which we are largely dependent for many aspects of our financial house."