Saskatchewan

Premier Moe says meetings with Trump administration are necessary, says use of U.S. lobbyists will continue

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe wrapped up a whirlwind two-day trip to Washington D.C and said his face to face meetings with Trump administration officials are "necessary."

Sask. pays U.S. firm $400K per year to lobby and arrange meetings

Premier Scott Moe with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. (Premier Scott Moe/Twitter)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe wrapped up a whirlwind two-day trip to Washington D.C. and said his face to face meetings with Trump administration officials are "necessary."

On Wednesday and Thursday, Moe met with 13 U.S. government officials, including four members of President Donald Trump's cabinet.

"We had some good discussions on behalf of the people of the province and the jobs that we have in Saskatchewan and they'll continue — this is a start," Moe said Thursday from Washington.

Moe met with Trump administration officials:

  • Mick Mulvaney, director of Office of Management and Budget.
  • Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture.
  • Scott Pruitt, administrator Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce.

Moe said his message was clear: the Saskatchewan economy is impacted greatly by trade with the U.S. and the U.S. relies on products from the province for its economy.

"There are projects right now in the U.S. virtually at a standstill because we need to ensure that we can get that product [steel] there tariff-free and those are some of the on-the-ground industry stories we brought," Moe said.

The premier said his role is to engage in a positive way and the keep the conversations going.

"We were able to, I think, impress on all of the members that we met with the importance and the value that we have from Saskatchewan's perspective on a strong, free and fair trade agreement."

Moe says province will continue to pay American lobbyist

The meetings were arranged by the U.S. law firm Nelson Mullins. David Wilkins, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, is a partner with the firm and accompanied Moe to the meetings.

"We ended up with 13 meetings with elected representatives here in Washington D.C., four of those meetings directly with members of President Trump's cabinet. I think that speaks for itself the access that we are being provided by the firm Nelson Mullins," Moe said.

The Saskatchewan government started its relationship with Nelson Mullins in 2009 under Premier Brad Wall. It pays the firm $400,000 a year. According to Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics which compiles data from the Senate Office of Public Records, as of April 2018, Saskatchewan has paid Nelson Mullins $3.6 million in total.

"I would say our investment in Nelson Mullins has been well worth that investment and will continue," Moe said.

The province of New Brunswick hired Nelson Mullins in 2017 at a cost of $40,000 per month. New Brunswick Premier Brain Gallant had a similar series of meetings in April in Washington D.C. with Mulvaney and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who also met with Moe.

Records from the Center for Responsive Politics' database show Nelson Mullins donated to both Mulvaney and Graham among a host of other elected Democratic and Republican members of Congress and Senate.

When asked about the firm's political donations to some of the people he met with this week Moe said, "I am not aware of it but it wouldn't surprise me."

Premier hopeful over NAFTA negotiations

The U.S., Canada and Mexico have been attempting to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement for several months.

Last week's U.S. tariffs were met with counter-tariffs by the Trudeau government which come into effect on July 1.

Moe said the impact of tariffs, regardless of origin, are felt on both sides of the border.

"I'd be hopeful that we could get to a place where we could modernize an agreement that has been so beneficial to North America as a whole, including Saskatchewan," he said.

Moe called the negotiations "sensitive and challenging."

"We need all hands on deck to engage in this negotiation so that we can get to a solid place on behalf of all Canadians."

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca