Ghiz would have welcomed PM at premier's meeting in Halifax

The Canadian Press
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Premier Robert Ghiz brushes his moustache while waiting for a television interview as the premiers gather for an economic summit in Halifax on Thursday, November 22, 2012.

HALIFAX — Stephen Harper’s refusal to meet with the premiers dampens the chances of economic progress for provinces struggling with tepid growth and rising debt, several of the provincial leaders said ahead of Friday’s discussion in Halifax.

Robert Ghiz, the premier of Prince Edward Island, said he would have welcomed the prime minister’s ideas at the table on how to improve the country’s “sluggish” economic growth.

“There is a difference when he is here,” Ghiz said late Thursday after arriving in the port city.

“Whether it’s skills development, university funding ... immigration, trade, all these things. There are federal ties in all those areas.”

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, who is hosting the meeting, said it’s challenging for provinces to devise their spending plans without the prime minister’s input.

“It’s difficult for us to know how we can best blend our own planning in with the funding of the federal government if we don’t know what their plans are,” Dexter said.

The idea for such a gathering came up during the last premiers’ meeting in July, when they agreed to discuss how they could protect their provinces from a global economy in flux. That was before revised figures showing a higher federal deficit and growing concerns over the possibility of the U.S. economy going over its so-called fiscal cliff at the end of next month.

The premiers invited Harper but he declined. His office has said he has met regularly with the premiers and the economy remains his prime concern.

Harper’s absence from the meeting has also become fodder for opposition parties in the House of Commons this week, where they accused him of shirking his responsibilities.

“Mr. Speaker, precisely what Canadians want from their leaders is not more meetings,” Harper said in response Thursday. “They want action from this particular government.”

Still, that kind of response has not sat well with some, including Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“I think we’re all disappointed that we couldn’t get an opportunity to meet with the prime minister and to build a strong plan for economic growth together,” McGuinty said earlier this week.

“We’ll see what we can do by way of a concerted effort.”

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois also criticized Harper for not attending, saying she couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t attend given his interest on the economy.

Late Thursday, Marois and Alberta Premier Alison Redford had a separate meeting to discuss the possibility of shipping oil from the West. They agreed to explore the economic opportunities and possible environmental effects of the project.

“There is a difference when he is here,” Premier Robert Ghiz

Glen Hodgson, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, said the premiers should avoid the divisions that have defined some of their past meetings and attempt to make progress on matters under their control, such as boosting immigration and knocking down interprovincial trade barriers.

“What are provincial governments doing to deepen the skills of their workforce or to encourage more immigrants to work into the Canadian workplace and get rid of barriers between provinces?” he said.

One highlight of the meeting is a presentation by Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, who will discuss the bank’s outlook for the global and Canadian economies as well as national inflation.

Carney has said the U.S. fiscal cliff is the most imminent threat facing the Canadian economy, and he has also repeatedly warned that personal debt levels have reached record highs, posing a risk to the economy if consumers can’t afford to carry their debt when interest rates rise.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said he’ll be listening carefully to any guidance Carney can provide as he reviews his province’s finances.

“We’ll be looking to him for what his specific ideas are,” Selinger said.

The meeting comes a week after federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released the government’s revised deficit projections that show a deficit of $26 billion — up $5 billion from the March budget forecast — as a result of global economic weakness carving into commodity prices and tax revenues.

The gloomy numbers have also prompted Ottawa to delay its hopes of balancing the books until 2016-2017, a year later than previously forecast. Despite that, Flaherty said he would not touch fiscal transfers to the provinces.

Dexter said one issue he would like to address is the $8.8-billion Building Canada Fund. The federal infrastructure program expires in 2014.

“We’re given to believe there will be a new infrastructure program, but we’re not told what it is,” he said.

In an email, Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall said Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel has been going through a six-month, national consultation on the fund.


Organizations: House of Commons, Conference Board of Canada, Bank of Canada

Geographic location: Halifax, Prince Edward Island, U.S. Nova Scotia Ontario Quebec Alberta Manitoba Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Justine Thyme
    November 25, 2012 - 11:46

    I know how we can turn a profit at the Grand Hotel ... stache rides for everyone!!!

  • Garth Staples
    November 23, 2012 - 17:41

    PM Harper is not sidetracked by little potentates! He has a country to look after. The division of powers says the Premiers have provinces to look after. Get on with it.

  • Chucker
    November 23, 2012 - 15:24

    As for the worried look check out the PNP story- RCMP expands probe.

    November 23, 2012 - 13:11

    Did anyone check first with Premier Ghiz before using this "sneak--peek" picture of him? How would you like someone doing the same to you? At least he's a good looking young Islander, better looking than most, perhaps. I don't feel good when someone pokes fun at me in public, do you? But, the good part is, Premier Robert can just brush it off like a lot of negative stuff filling the columns.

  • Here's Why
    November 23, 2012 - 13:05

    Of course Ghiz would love to have the PM at the meeting. He has spend all of the provincial money. He wants to dip into the money from the rest of the provinces. When will this insanity end. And wow, is that ever a bad photo. Love it.

  • nice photo
    November 23, 2012 - 12:04

    What a great photo of His Highness!

  • Arlene Doiron
    November 23, 2012 - 11:58

    Maybe Premier Ghiz could ask Islanders about the cause of the sluggish economy in his own province. To name a couple of causes that will carry us far into the future with a sluggish economy are Plan B and HST. From: TAKE CARE OF ISLANDERS

  • Mell
    November 23, 2012 - 11:50

    WOW, Charlie Chaplin reincarnated for the Premiers' conference! Maybe something will get done- tongue in cheek! HA HA!!

  • hahaha
    November 23, 2012 - 11:38

    Could you not have found a better photo of Premier Ghiz? LOL Thanks for the chuckle.

  • ulk
    November 23, 2012 - 11:34

    great picture, --- and who cares what he would have welcomed

  • Pius from BC
    November 23, 2012 - 11:17

    I wonder how the Premiers would have to say to Harper? Oh yes, I know, "More Money- More Money-More Money"

  • Greg
    November 23, 2012 - 10:43

    The best way to protect PEI's economy would be to get rid of Ghiz. His party has stolen and squandered millions. PNP and $3 million sand waves in Borden are just two examples.

  • Pictureperfect
    November 23, 2012 - 10:42

    It would have been nice for Mr. Harper to attend. It also would have been nice to have a picture of Ghiz NOT posing as Dirty Sanchez of the Year.

  • Sylvia
    November 23, 2012 - 10:40

    I'll be glad when Movember is over. It's a great cause but I'm very tired of seeing items about Ghiz and his moustache. My dr. is growing one and he's not on TV or in newspaper. I said to him this week "you're growing a moustache" and he answered "I'm trying", with his usual modesty about everything he does and accomplishes. You'd think that Ghiz is the only person that's growing one, there's so much written about it. Enough, please!