Saskatchewan

Western separation 'not the answer,' says Sask. premier

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says western separation is “not the answer,” but won't rule anything out when it comes to increasing provincial autonomy.

Following meeting with PM, Scott Moe says he wants to increase provincial autonomy but offers no details

Premier Scott Moe says he does not support separation but considers everything on the table when it comes to expanding the province's autonomy. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says western separation is "not the answer" to frustration with the federal government, but won't rule anything out when it comes to increasing provincial autonomy.

"I don't think Saskatchewan separating from the nation is the answer. However, I am not going to denounce the feelings and the conversations that are happening by Saskatchewan people. I'm not going to denounce the people that I represent," Moe said Wednesday.

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said Moe is playing a "dangerous game" by not fully denouncing separation.

"I think he needs to make it clear over and over again that he's absolutely opposed to separation and secession, and that his party will be making that clear," Meili said.

On Tuesday, Moe told media in Ottawa, where he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that the province would be seeking ways to enhance its autonomy.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has previously made similar remarks. He's also announced a plan to open offices in other provinces and create an advisory panel that will travel the province to consult on decisions, such as whether the province should establish its own revenue agency and police force.

When asked for specifics on whether his Saskatchewan Party government was considering similar measures, Moe said "we haven't discussed specific items as of yet. I would say that all items are on the table."

The premier said he didn't raise the issue of enhanced provincial autonomy in his meeting with Trudeau on Tuesday.

But he said following the meeting that he was disappointed with it, calling it a sign of "more of the same" from the prime minister and his recently re-elected Liberal government.

'Very little' said on new initiatives

Trudeau's office offered a different account of Tuesday's one-hour closed-door meeting.

The Prime Minister's Office released an account of its version of the meeting on Tuesday night, saying the two discussed important priorities and reaffirmed Trudeau's commitment to work collaboratively with the provincial government. 

Trudeau thanked Moe for intervening on the side of the federal government at the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the Trans Mountain Pipeline case, the statement said, and reminded the premier that over 2,000 people are working on the construction in Alberta and B.C.

Moe had gone into the meeting with three asks: a one-year pause of the carbon tax imposed on the province by the federal government, payment to three "have" provinces affected by the equalization formula, and a commitment to pipelines.

Moe called the equalization formula "flawed."

He said he went to Ottawa "in good faith" and wanted to hear how Trudeau would turn the frustrations of people in Saskatchewan into action.

"What I heard was very little new in the way of new initiatives," Moe said Wednesday.

He also said he raised the idea of not only exempting natural gas used for grain drying from the carbon tax, but also of a carbon tax exemption for the entire agricultural industry.

The statement from the Prime Minister's Office said Trudeau reminded Moe that the equalization formula is the same as that of the previous federal government, and suggested Moe work with other premiers to gain consensus on potential changes to the formula. 

Moe will get a chance to pitch that to Canadian provincial leaders, when he chairs the premiers' meetings in Toronto in December.

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 more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

With files from CBC News

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