N.B. Premier Gallant calls for unified First Ministers front as trade battle with U.S. heats up
Premiers to meet in New Brunswick next week for annual gathering
Despite the conflicting policy views held by some of Canada's premiers, New Brunswick's Premier Brian Gallant is urging them to remain united as Canada faces an onslaught of trade challenges from the U.S.
Tensions between the provinces have been high in the past year — especially out west, where British Columbia and Alberta have been feuding over a thwarted expansion project for the Trans Mountain pipeline. Ottawa ended up buying the pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion.
Gallant, who is hosting next week's annual premiers meeting in New Brunswick, said he fully expects that topic to come up, along with the perennial irritant of interprovincial trade.
No matter what the dividing issues are this year, however, he said he's hoping all premiers keep an open mind.
"I think it's going to be very important as premiers to be as united as possible," he told CBC Radio's The House on Wednesday.
"There's a lot more that binds us together than divides us."
Remaining cohesive is key, given the trade war percolating between Canada and the U.S., Gallant said.
"Trade in all of its aspects will be top of mind next week."
Canada moved forward at the beginning of the month with $16 billion in tariffs against our southern neighbour — retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imposed a month before.
Gallant is advocating a "quicker" approach to getting an interprovincial free trade agreement up and running and said he expects his counterparts will agree, given the sour atmosphere hanging over trade talks with the U.S.
Equalization on the table — unofficially
International and interprovincial trade aren't the only topics that have been causing friction in the federation lately.
The federal government has been under fire recently for renewing the existing equalization formula for another five years despite strong objections from some provinces. The extension kicks in next year.
Equalization, which is based on a highly complex formula, is designed to help poorer provincial governments provide public services that are reasonably comparable to those in other provinces.
Saskatchewan has expressed its displeasure with the federal government's methods for calculating equalization payments and its government has suggested an alternative plan.
Premier Scott Moe made a formal request to add equalization to the meeting's agenda, Gallant said, but that schedule was solidified weeks ago.
He told guest host Katie Simpson he'd invited Moe to bring it up in the open portion of the meeting.
The premiers will be in St. Andrews, N.B., from July 18-20.