Brian Pallister heads north for 1st premier's conference

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is headed to Whitehorse, Yukon for his first formal meeting with Canada's provincial leaders.
Pallister heads for Yukon for his first Premier's meeting. (CBC News )

Brian Pallister's briefing notes are as thick as a phone book as he gets set for his first formal meeting with provincial leaders from across Canada this week.

The Manitoba premier has his own agenda for the conference, which starts in Whitehorse, Yukon, on July 20.

At the top of Pallister's list is a new health care accord between the provinces, territories and the federal government. He says it is currently the major issue for all provincial governments.

"The federal government has indicated it wants to back away from the support levels offered by the previous administration and the one before that, and that would be for me a backward step at a time when the population is aging and needs are growing," Pallister said.
Pallister's homework for Premier's meeting (Travis Golby CBC News)

Pallister says health care is the number one priority for Canadians and the feds need to be a full partner in paying for it. He says the Liberal government in Ottawa is currently offering to reduce growth in health care transfers to half of the current levels.

Pallister says Manitoba's fiscal situation with big deficits and high taxes has left the province in a difficult position to cope with increased health care costs.

He says Manitobans want long term sustainable health care.
Healthcare, trade and CPP top Pallister's list for meeting of Premiers in Yukon. (Travis Golby CBC News )

"How do we achieve that without a federal government that wants to partner and take on that obligation? With great difficulty," Pallister said.

An appropriate formula would be for the feds to pick up 25 per cent of the cost of health care with the provinces footing the other 75 per cent, he suggested.

Manitoba, with a large Indigenous population, faces some unique health care issues related to chronic diseases among members of that community and the federal government has a constitutional obligation to health care for Aboriginal people, Pallister said.

He will join some of the premiers in Haines Junction, Yukon, on the first day of the conference to meet with leaders from national Aboriginal organizations.

Trade, CPP also on Pallister's list

Pallister will also promote Manitoba's advocacy for changes to the Canada Pension Plan, saying "I'd like to see it better, not just bigger."

Infrastructure improvements to cope with disasters is also on his mind.

"These are important investments where climate change being a reality, greater frequency and intensity of disasters occurring, so it's important also to restore the deductable that the federal government used to have to pay its fair share towards these costs," Pallister said.

Intra-provincial trade and water issues are also in Pallister's briefing book for the conference with the other premiers.