Justin Trudeau's majority greeted with optimism by provincial premiers

After nearly a decade of a prime minister notorious for various public tussles with premiers, Canada's provincial leaders react with hope to the reality of a Liberal leader who has promised to work harmoniously to advance their interests.

Prime minister-designate has promised improved relationships with the provincial premiers

After nearly a decade of a prime minister notorious for public tussles with premiers who challenged his policies, Canada's provincial leaders reacted Tuesday to the electoral victory of a Liberal leader who has promised to work harmoniously to advance their interests.

During his time as prime minister, outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not shy about aggressively engaging premiers who spoke out against his government and displayed an outward contempt for first ministers' meetings. 

Perhaps most infamous was his battle with former Newfoundland and Labrador premier and fellow Tory Danny Williams, with whom Harper clashed almost immediately after assuming office in early 2006. At the core of their high-profile spat was Harper's decision to incorporate non-renewable energy resources into the federal equalization formula. 

Williams actively campaigned against Harper during the 2008 federal election, popularizing the "anything but Conservative" slogan that became a rallying cry for opposition to the federal Tories.

Williams makes no bones about the fact that he continues to consider Harper a rival to this day.

More recently, Harper has sparred with Ontario's Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, particularly over her government's proposed provincial pension plan, which Harper said would amount to tax grab and mean higher taxes for Ontarians. 

He has also battled verbally with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who led the NDP's victorious charge in a province long considered an unbreachable Tory fortress. Her government opposes some energy projects championed by the federal and provincial Conservatives.

Just days after the 42nd federal election was called, Harper called Notley's government "a disaster." Notley quickly fired back, saying that the people of Alberta had roundly rejected and had "had enough" of the Alberta PCs. 

On Tuesday, Notley said Albertans had demonstrated "the importance of democracy" by electing Justin Trudeau and the Liberals. 

"I look forward to working collaboratively with him to build a strong Alberta within a strong Canada," Notley told reporters.

She listed infrastructure, health care, climate change and building a "respectful" relationship with indigenous peoples as key issues they need to work on together.

The surname Trudeau evokes varying reactions in Notley's province, where the energy policies of former prime minister and Justin's father Pierre Elliott Trudeau enraged voters. Many considered the National Energy Program a betrayal of the Canadian West in a bid to appease voters in the East.

Justin Trudeau visited Alberta multiple times on the campaign trail. In the days before the election, he openly acknowledged the unfavourable legacy of his father in the province, vowing that he wouldn't sell western resources — namely oil and gas — to buy eastern votes.

Notley's message was largely in line with that of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who said that his city has prospered under Liberal governments in the past. Nenshi is among the group of big city mayors that includes Toronto's John Tory and Vancouver's Gregor Robertson who have repeatedly called for greater support from the federal government for transit and infrastructure projects.

Wynne, who had Trudeau at her side multiple times during the 2014 Ontario provincial election, held a news conference this morning, telling reporters she's "positive and optimistic" about Trudeau and his pending Liberal cabinet, adding that the Liberal Party's federal majority will be "good for Ontario and good for Canada."

Wynne campaigned hard for Trudeau in her vote-rich province, where the federal Liberals took 80 of the 121 seats up for grabs. Perhaps most importantly, she pushed hard for Trudeau's candidates in the Greater Toronto Area, where the Grits took 49 of the 54 available seats. 

She also acknowledged, however, that she may often disagree with Trudeau and promised not to present him with a laundry list of costly requests. 

Wynne's message Tuesday was echoed by the Liberal premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard, who said he's looking forward to working with a federal government with more progressive positions on climate change and health-care transfer payments.

The Liberals made considerable gains in Quebec on Monday, taking 40 seats in a province where again his father has a controversial legacy. In 2011, the Grits won just seven seats in the province. 

Couillard also said he thinks a Trudeau government will meet more frequently with the premiers and could be more likely to support plans for safe injection sites for intravenous drug users in some areas of Montreal. 

Part of Trudeau's election platform was a promise to meet with the premiers within 100 days of taking office, as well as developing a federally supported plan to battle climate change that will be implemented at the provincial level.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said it is about time all of Canada's leaders assemble together. The Liberal added he wants to see some of the infrastructure spending promised by Trudeau sent to his province.

"We face as a country and as a province many financial and economic challenges," he said.

"Now is the time to invest to ensure that we are sparking growth, to ensure that we are creating jobs in the short term and to ensure that we will be prosperous in the long term."

With files from Daniel McHardie


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