Premiers from across Canada walked in the footsteps of the Fathers of Confederation this morning as they began the meetings of the Council of the Federation in Prince Edward Island.
The premiers began the morning by walking up Great George Street to Province House, just as the Fathers of Confederation did when they arrived in Charlottetown 150 years ago to discuss the idea of forming a country.
They then took seats around the meeting table in the historic Confederation chamber, which is usually blocked off for display-only to visitors and tourists.
This is where the premiers began their first meeting of the day Thursday.
Internal trade between the provinces and territories is expected to be a major topic of discussion.
The premiers of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan announced a plan to work together to bring down internal trade barriers through their New West Partnership.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said more work needs to be done to relax regulations that prevent companies from successfully offering certain goods and services across the country.
“At the heart of improving trade issues is trying to remove dumb from the economy and promote things that might cause a greater ability for goods to move goods across and for people to engage entrepreneurship and create jobs,” Wall told reporters in Charlottetown.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark said the federal government could also do more to increase free trade within the country.
“We are trying to lead by example in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, and help other provinces and help the federal government understand all the things that they can do to try and increase free trade across our country.”
The premiers are also expected to discuss strategies to deal with the country’s aging population and how this is affecting health care costs.
Health costs were also the focus of a small group of protesters who arrived with signs and a paper mache marionette of Prime Minister Stephen Harper this morning at Province House.
James Hutt from the Nova Scotia Citizen’s Health Care Network, said his group wanted to encourage the premiers to push the Harper government for better health transfers to the provinces.
“We’re here with other partners telling the premiers to stand up to Harper,” Hutt said.
“We’re calling on all the premiers to stand together and make sure we have a health care system that’s based on need, not your ability to pay.”
Energy and pensions are also expected to be discussed as the premiers continue their deliberations in Charlottetown today.
The Guardian will provide ongoing coverage online of the Council of the Federation meetings in Charlottetown throughout the day Thursday and Friday. Check back to The Guardian website for regular updates.