B.C. and Alberta premiers set to meet face-to-face for first time, want to avoid ‘phony war’
B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are set to meet face-to-face Thursday for the first time as western premiers gather in Edmonton.
But on Wednesday, both premiers were downplaying the feud between the two provinces over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“I am a Canuck fan going to Oiler territory. I’m a Lions fan going to Eskimo territory. But beyond that I’m expecting positive discussions,” Horgan said.
“My responsibility on the agenda is to talk about mental health and addiction and what British Columbia is doing. That is what I am going to be focused on because that is the requirement of the agenda.”View link »
The formal agenda for the Western Premiers Conference is focused on mental health and addictions as well as wildfire prevention.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is also seeking a joint response from the western premiers on Quebec’s new religious symbols law.
The meeting will include premiers from Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the three territories.
But even though the Trans Mountain pipeline and energy projects are not on the official agenda, it is expected that it will end up being a central part of the discussions.
“Both of our economies were built on resources,” Kenney said. “We don’t need Albertans and British Columbians going at it in some kind of phony war. We need a British Columbia government that respects the Canadian constitution.
“What we won’t accept is obstruction. But we want to find common ground.”
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Horgan and Kenney have spoken on the phone a few times since Kenney was elected premier earlier this year. Kenny gave Horgan the heads up before proclaiming into law the Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act, the so-called “turn-off-the taps” law.
The proclamation was just one step in an escalating battle between the provinces that started under former Alberta premier Rachel Notley.
Horgan said he is optimistic that work can get done at this week’s meeting.
“I have every expectation that the four premiers from the provinces, as well as those coming from the territories, are going to do as we did last year: work cooperatively to try to bring best practices that will work for people,” Horgan said.
“Will we discuss energy issues. I rather suspect we will. But I can’t predict how that is going to go.”
Last year’s Western Premier’s Conference was not as cooperative as Horgan remembers it. Notley backed out of the conference just days before the meeting was set to begin in Yellowknife, NWT.
At the time, Notley said she decided not to attend the meeting because she was focused on ensuring the Trans Mountain expansion went forward with a deadline quickly approaching from the company.
The federal government subsequently purchased the pipeline because of concerns over British Columbia’s opposition.
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Kenney said he is optimistic with Horgan’s support for LNG Canada, and hopes they can also discuss Aboriginal participation in resource development.
On Trans Mountain, Kenney will once again ask B.C. to back away from a reference case that could soon be heading to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“I have always said I hope we can discuss finding common ground,” Kenney said.
“We will obviously have a clear difference in opinion on TMX, as did our previous Alberta government. But that should not prohibit us from finding common ground on other issues.”
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