Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe 'hopeful' following meeting with Chrystia Freeland
Moe also says, 'I don't feel that separation is in the best interest of Saskatchewan'
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he appreciates his meeting Tuesday with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, calling it a chance to bring the minister "up to speed" on many issues facing the province.
It was a marked change of tone from earlier this month, when Moe spoke with reporters in the Saskatchewan Legislature after a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Moe said then that he was disappointed.
On Tuesday Moe said he discussed a number of issues with Freeland, including carbon taxation, equalization and an exemption for the agriculture sector from the carbon tax on grain drying, which would see money already collected refunded to the sector.
"I'm hopeful, but I am realistic with respect to where the federal government is," Moe said. "But I am hopeful that this was a positive and cordial visit and a positive and cordial exercise."
Moe said no concessions were made by either party during the meeting, which lasted about an hour and took place at the Premier's Office in Regina.
"That was not the purpose of the deputy prime minister's visit," Moe told reporters.
"The purpose of her visit was her to get up to speed and to listen to myself on behalf of the province of Saskatchewan," Moe said, noting they had "a good conversation" on where the challenges are for Saskatchewan and how they could collaborate to move forward.
"There was no commitments or indications made, however, there was a willingness to listen and we appreciate that," he said. "We appreciate the willingness to listen and in the days and weeks ahead, and we asked for this today, we'll be looking for action."
Moe said the province is waiting to find out where, when and how that action will occur, and he's still confident he can secure a "new deal" for Western Canada.
"I guess I would be hopeful for this," he said. "That this is a government and a prime minister that will do what he said he would do and act on the frustrations that he identified and the fact he wants to support Saskatchewan people."
Moe said the province has laid out some items he'd like to see Ottawa address, and he hopes they will look "very seriously" at those issues.
Freeland has been tasked by the prime minister with healing divisions between the Liberal government and the West. In October, the party lost all of its seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan, including one held by veteran Regina MP Ralph Goodale.
Freeland ready to listen
"As the premier said, the people of Saskatchewan sent a message to our government on election day and so I'm here to talk to the premier, to look for common ground and above all, to listen," Freeland told reporters before the meeting.
She met with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Monday to talk about similar issues. While both sides said it was a positive meeting, neither would comment on whether concessions were being made.
Freeland also stopped in at Regina's city hall on Tuesday afternoon, where she met with Mayor Michael Fougere. She did not take questions.
Freeland listened more than she spoke, Fougere said, but he raised concerns about the oil and gas sectors, the carbon tax and Western Canadians' dissatisfaction at the results of last month's election.
"We have investment leaving the country from oil and gas, losing jobs here — it's a tall order," Fougere said of his talk with the minister.
The mayor said he emphasized the federal government must listen to what is being said in Western Canada and quickly move to develop policy to address the West's concerns, anger and frustration.
"She must act and and be seen to be acting and have some substantive changes that will redirect the conversation," he said.
Wexit no good for province: Moe
Following the meeting, it appears Moe has also come to a hard conclusion on a movement that would see Western Canada separate from the rest of Canada, saying while the frustrations of the West were discussed, the concept of western separation specifically was not.
"I don't feel that separation is in the best interest of Saskatchewan," he said. "It doesn't do anything to solve the very real frustrations that I'm hearing from Saskatchewan people."
Moe said when it comes to issues around market access the province is facing, separation would not be a good move.
"With respect to getting our products to port, getting our products to the 150 countries that we deal with all around the world, separation does nothing to advance our ability to do that. So, it is my belief, that separation is not in the best interest of Saskatchewan."
Premiers and territorial leaders are set to meet in Toronto next month for a Council of the Federation meeting.
With files from Adam Hunter