The House

The House: Justin Trudeau confronts the provincial uprisings

This week on The House, we were in Montreal for the first ministers meeting. We'll talk with the premiers of Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia and Saskatchwan about oil, the environment, and a court challenge of the federal carbon pricing strategy. Finally, we'll ask for reaction from federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

Oil production not officially on the agenda, but it had a 'very thorough and complete airing'

The premiers and prime minister speak to the media at the first ministers closing news conference on Friday in Montreal. They are from the left: Blaine Higgs, New Brunswick, Justin Trudeau, Canada, François Legault, Quebec and John Horgan, British Columbia. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode56:47

A highly anticipated meeting between Canada's premiers and the prime minister was expected to bring deep tensions to the surface, but ended with little sign of heightened emotions.

After reports that some premiers would either walk out of the meeting in Montreal or not attend altogether, British Columbia's John Horgan said the gathering ended with more commonalities than anyone might have anticipated at the outset.

Horgan himself has had some tense moments with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this year, but told CBC Radio's The House he was pleased with how the meeting went.

Despite the pleasant finale, Horgan added there were "no shrinking violets in that room."

The plan, called Clean B.C., requires all new buildings to be net-zero energy by 2032, and all new cars sold to be zero-emission by 2040. It also redirects revenue from the carbon tax into incentives for the province's biggest industries to move to cleaner operations. 2:12

Even loaded topics not originally planned for long discussion were raised, like Alberta's oil crisis.

"Just because it's not on the agenda doesn't mean you're not going to talk about it," Horgan said.

The B.C. premier also just released his province's climate change plan, which sets ambitious goals around clean energy, improving energy efficiency and moving toward electric vehicles.

Horgan said there are enormous amounts of energy in Canada that haven't been tapped yet because there are still so many barriers to moving goods province to province.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan tells host Chris Hall about the dynamic in the room during the premiers' meeting in Montreal, and talks about his newly released climate plan. 9:38

Oil woes dominate meeting for Alberta's Rachel Notley

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C.'s Horgan both spoke about the importance of the natural resources sector in Alberta. (Mark Blinch/Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Having no firm answer about the asked-for help from the federal government won't stop Alberta Premier Rachel Notley from demanding a solution to her province's oil crisis.

It's far from her ideal outcome. However, during the meeting with Trudeau and some of his ministers in Montreal, she said she felt the door open slightly — making her confident in continuing the fight.

"We're going to keep doing the work that we have been doing," she told The House after coming up empty-handed on a deal with Ottawa.

"We've made a very clear ask."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley tells reporters in Ottawa that she is hopeful for a meeting with the Prime Minister to talk about the ongoing issues around exporting Alberta oil. 0:42

After months of uncertainty created by an inability to get oil out of the province in an efficient way, Notley's ask has evolved into three specific requests. They include relief for oilpatch workers, and help obtaining rail cars to move oil.

The stalled expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that would take more Alberta oil to tidewater on the coast of British Columbia means that crude is predominantly being transported by rail now.

Notley has asked for federal assistance to acquire rail cars to get more oil to market, since the supply being produced currently exceeds the capacity to transport it.

The Trudeau Liberals gave her no specific answer on a path forward, but she remains optimistic, even though it sometimes requires her getting her "elbows up."

It's gotten so bad, this week she announced a temporary 8.7 per cent cut in oil production to increase prices — the equivalent of 325,000 barrels per day.

No commitment from Ottawa, but Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is prepared to continue the fight to have the federal government chip in to buy rail cars to ship oil from the province to market. 7:39

The curtailment ends at the end of 2019, when Enbridge's new Line 3 pipeline is scheduled to start operating.

The government estimates Alberta is losing $80 million a day due to this discount, but Notley says the alternative is losing billions a year as Alberta oil is sold for pennies on the dollar, compared to the price for international oil.

Even if the federal government isn't addressing the matter with urgency, Notley said her other provincial and territorial counterparts seemed to — as there was "almost complete consensus" around the table that something needed to be done to tackle the problem.

How can Ottawa help address the oil price crisis? MPs debate on Power & Politics. 9:41

"Constructive" conversations on difficult topics at premiers' meeting: LeBlanc

Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc was one of the few cabinet ministers invited to the meeting. (Matt Smith/The Canadian Press)

Minister Dominic LeBlanc had a difficult job at this week's first ministers meeting.

He's the man Trudeau put in charge of maintaining relationships with each of the country's premiers.

There have been enough provincial and territorial upsets over the past few years to bother almost all the leaders — everything from pipelines, to a carbon tax.

Many of those issues made it to the floor on Friday in Montreal, and despite some of the criticism from the premiers, LeBlanc called the gathering "constructive."

'Climate change is real, people expect their governments to take action,' says the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. 8:56

All the premiers signed onto a communiqué on Friday afternoon, vowing to tackle issues like clean energy, growing the economy and reducing trade barriers between provinces.

The ministers said they left with action items and a real sense of what could be achieved together.

Oil wasn't officially on the agenda, but LeBlanc said it had a "very thorough and complete airing" from the premiers concerned about the worsening situation in Alberta that led to Premier Notley temporarily cutting down oil production.

Federal intergovernmental affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc addresses reports of tension in the room at the First Ministers' Meeting in Montreal, talks about several premiers' battle against a price on carbon and responds to the oil needs from Alberta. 10:11