'Walking out is never the thing to do,' says P.E.I. premier ahead of tense first ministers' meeting

Canadian premiers arrived Thursday in Montreal for a first ministers meeting but debate over the agenda set by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could make for one of the most tense first ministers’ gathering in years.

'We should be here and glad to be here'

'Frankly — if we do the hard work and the good work … Canadians will prosper,' says Premier Wade MacLauchlan. (CBC)

Canadian premiers arrived Thursday in Montreal for a ministers meeting but debate over the agenda set by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could make for one of the most tense first ministers' gathering in years.

The official agenda for the meeting — originally intended to go over a range of economic and trade issues, including the recently signed revised North American trade agreement and stalled efforts to reduce internal trade barriers — is now the focus of a dispute that threatens to overshadow policy discussions.

"I'm looking forward to leaving this meeting and perhaps the next time we talk with internal trade not having booze at the top of the list," said P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

'Should be glad to be here'

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has made his feelings on the prime minister's agenda clear and has threatened to walk out of the meeting if the agenda is not expanded.

"Walking out is never the thing to do. We should be here and glad to be here," said MacLauchlan.

"We should be so appreciative of the fact that we have a federation, that we have the opportunity to work together and that we have an economy that's doing well enough that we want it to do better."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford looks on during a meeting of Canada's premiers in Montreal, Thursday, December 6, 2018. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Hard work

Trudeau and Ford met privately in Montreal on Thursday afternoon, both men spoke briefly to gathered journalists. Ford said he was looking forward to face time with the PM so he could voice some of his concerns.

After the meeting, a spokesperson for Ford told reporters the premier has high hopes for the meeting between Trudeau and the premiers Friday morning.

MacLauchlan is also hopeful the meeting will go well.

"Frankly — if we do the hard work and the good work … Canadians will prosper," MacLauchlan said.

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With files from Stephanie Kelly