Saskatoon

Premier Wall discusses pipelines, employment insurance with Prime Minister Trudeau

Premier Brad Wall said he discussed rethinking the employment insurance extension that excluded southern Saskatchewan, as well as pipeline approvals and funding to support Syrian refugees in Saskatchewan struggling to get into a classroom.

Brad Wall and Justin Trudeau met in Saskatoon to discuss economic challenges, opportunities

Premier Brad Wall met briefly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday in Saskatoon. On the agenda was EI benefits, pipelines and support for Syrian refugees in Saskatchewan. (Don Somers/CBC)

Topics from employment insurance to funding for Syrian refugees were on the table during a short meeting between Premier Brad Wall and the prime minister in Saskatoon on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met briefly with Wall on Wednesday evening. 

Wall said he feels encouraged that Trudeau is listening to, and understands the economic challenges Saskatchewan currently faces.

The two discussed getting Saskatchewan oil to market. Wall said he was pleased to hear Trudeau sided with him.

"We need to move our oil to tidewater and the prime minister has said that many times," Wall said.

Here's what Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wall had to say after their meeting 2:31

But the process of getting pipelines approved still has to follow a rigorous design and consultation process, which Wall said can't be put off any longer.

The Premier said he will continue to speak out to the federal government on the Energy East pipeline, because it would results in a greater investment in Saskatchewan, and it will give Canada a chance to move away from importing foreign oil.

"It will also make sure there's less oil on railways, which is not as safe as oil on a pipeline," he said.

Rethinking EI extensions

Trumpeting his thoughts on Ottawa's Employment Insurance (EI) benefits extension, Wall said he asked Trudeau to reevaluate the program, because a huge chunk of southern Saskatchewan was left out.

"I'm not saying the federal government screwed up… but I am saying there is a formula that I think kicked out some numbers that has excluded some regions of our province where there's a lot of oil workers," said Wall.

Wall said Trudeau promised his government would monitor the benefits extension.

"I'm hopeful that monitoring will turn into action."

New Syrian refugees

Syrian newcomers to Saskatchewan were also discussed as the premier told the prime minister they're still waiting for financial support that was promised from Ottawa when they started to aggressively accept Syrians refugees late in 2015.

Thus far Saskatchewan has taken in 1,100 Syrians, but schools have limited resources and access to English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors.

School boards need more support for Syrian students, according to Wall, and he said they have a figure of about $6.3 million in costs with respect to refugees.

Skip The Dishes subsidy

When asked about a recently announced $3 million subsidy to Skip The Dishes, an online food ordering company with an office in Saskatoon, Wall defended the investment. He said it's a way of creating 300 new jobs in the province over the next three years.

"I think it's going to be important as we continue to diversify the economy, especially because these are tech-sector jobs and you're going to see other sectors from companies who want to invest in Saskatchewan," said Wall.

He said that when the provincial budget comes out in June, there won't be the same level of subsidy dollars for businesses.

If there are fewer jobs created than the contract requires, the company is required to pay some of the money back to the provincial government.

Trudeau visits high school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started his Saskatoon visit with a meeting with students at Oskayak High School on Wednesday morning. (Don Somers/CBC)

Trudeau made a stop at Oskayak High School in Saskatoon Wednesday morning, where he had a meet and greet with students from the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program.

"The success [of this school] is an example of the things that we need to be working on–not just in Saskatoon, but across the country," said Trudeau during his opening remarks.

During his visit, he participated in a Q&A with students and media, answering questions about education, building relationships with indigenous communities and focusing on environmental issues.

"Learning how to understand and empower is at the centre of being a teacher, but it's also, for me, at the centre of being a politician and a prime minister," he said.