Premiers agree to move forward with a national energy strategy

Canada's premiers emerged from their three-day summer meeting in Charlottetown with an agreement to move forward with a national energy strategy.

Provincial, terroritorial leaders wrap up 3-day summer meeting in Charlottetown

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz shake hands at the closing news conference of the annual Council of the Federation meeting in Charlottetown on Aug. 29, 2014. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Canada's premiers emerged from their three-day summer meeting in Charlottetown today with an agreement to move forward with a national energy strategy.

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz, who was chairing this week's meeting, said all provinces and territories are now on board after years of trying to reach a consensus.

"We've agreed on a vision and principle," Ghiz said during the closing news conference Friday.

The agreement came about thanks to the election of a federalist government in Quebec last April and British Columbia's decision to join in late 2013.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said he was pleased to see the premiers make the link between the environment and an energy strategy.

"I'm extremely happy that our government is joining the buildup of the strategy," said Couillard, whose province has joined California in creating a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said the provinces have agreed to transition to a low-carbon economy but whether that's achieved through a carbon tax, cap-and-trade or other technologies will be up to each premier to decide.

"There's a determination on the part of the provinces to deal with the issue. We each have different economies, different energy profiles ... so price [on carbon] will come in many forms."

Fiscal imbalance, aboriginal women, trade

The premiers were also united in their call to see the federal government take an active role in discussions about missing and murdered aboriginal women, as well as funding for health care and infrastructure.

Couillard, who publicly claims to have a good working relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said he was quite disappointed to hear Ottawa say there is no fiscal imbalance.

"It isn't very practical to ignore the facts," Couillard said.

With the door slammed shut on a national public inquiry, the premiers called on the federal government this week to compromise and have key ministers attend a national roundtable on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women. 

Today, Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod said if the prime minister rejects the idea of a roundtable, the premiers will go ahead and take action without the federal government.

"We're going to be working to develop a national framework for action to end violence against aboriginal women and girls," McLeod said.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said the premiers are supportive of a public inquiry because police alone can't address the problem. 

"There are major systemic issues at stake here… it can not be done solely by police."

Clark argued the federal government should see this as a "historic opportunity" to support First Nations.

While the premiers agreed on the need to drop interprovincial trade barriers between them, only a handful of provinces arrived at agreements this week.

British Columbia and Saskatchewan struck a deal that would allow consumers in each province to purchase wine directly from producers.

Alberta Premier Dave Hancock and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil agreed to harmonize the rules for workers who enrol in apprenticeships.