Trudeau needs to get 'Buy America' exemption to stave off job losses: premiers
Provinces plan a mission to Europe to urge ratification of trade deal
Canada's premiers want the federal government to take a more active role in negotiating an exemption from the United States' Buy America Act to avoid further job losses like the 550 layoffs at Bombardier's Thunder Bay facility this week.
In Saskatoon, where Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is hosting his fellow premiers for the Council of the Federation meeting, Moe and Quebec Premier François Legault said the policy is directly responsible for the Bombardier layoffs.
"The problem that was raised by Bombardier today was about the Buy America Act," said Legault. "They had an important contract in the U.S. that is ending and they had a rough time getting more contracts in the United States because of the Buy America Act.
"That's why we all decided together that we need more leadership from the prime minister of Canada to negotiate an exemption."
The premiers are meeting for two days to discuss economic growth, trade and health care. The gathering, just ahead of October's federal election, comes as some conservative leaders are attacking the federal government's energy policies — but the premiers did not appear to have found common ground on the file just yet.
Legault dismissed the idea of implementing federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's plan to build a national energy corridor that would clear a right-of-way for oil pipelines.
"It's clear right now that when we talk about this economic corridor that we agree about hydroelectricity, about gas, but regarding oil, there's no social acceptability in Quebec, so that's why we keep our position," he said.
Later Moe was asked if he thought the notion of a corridor was dead.
"No. We had discussions today and will continue to have discussions," Moe said. "We are in disagreement but thankfully we are in the same room ensuring that we are having discussions that are in the best interest of Canadians."
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told reporters after Wednesday's meetings that Quebecers use oil extensively, which demonstrates that there is social acceptability in the province for oil.
Kenny added that because infrastructure that crosses provincial boundaries is regulated by the federal government, he expects Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Scheer — should he become prime minister — to back the pipeline for the good of the national economy.
Moe said the provinces would continue to support the federal government in its international trade relations, pledging the premiers would soon send a trade mission to Europe.
"With an eye to the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement in Europe, we'll be co-ordinating a joint mission into Europe and the U.K. to advocate on behalf of Canadian exports and imports and investment attraction into the European Union."
Moe said that while the process through which EU member states ratify CETA is underway, the provinces will encourage ratification of the deal by the member states that have not yet done so.
On the domestic trade front, Moe said the provinces are moving forward with an effort to allow the provinces to remove exemptions from Canada's interprovincial trade deal without having to consult other provinces first.
"It was originally put forward that all of the provinces and territories would need to approve the removal of any exemptions … provinces will [now] be able to remove those exemptions unilaterally," Moe said.
The provinces also have agreed to review the exemptions they put into the Canadian Free Trade Agreement — which took effect July 1, 2017 — with a view to removing as many as possible, he said.
To kick off that effort Kenney announced that his province will unilaterally drop half of its exemptions and is launching a "fast-track review" of its remaining exceptions.
Moe said the premiers also want to see progress on the free movement of labour across the country.
Citing the way the Red Seal program that certifies skilled trades across Canada, Moe said the provinces are asking the federal government to apply similar standards to working professionals across Canada.
To combat the shortage of skilled workers on another front, the premiers also want the federal government to streamline the process for admitting economic migrants so that the provinces can get the skilled workers they need.
Wednesday's meeting comes a day after most of the country's premiers visited Big River First Nation, north of Saskatoon, to meet with Indigenous leaders.
Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he spoke to the premiers about working on reforming child welfare systems for Indigenous youth.
With files from the Canadian Press