Premiers face key decisions on busy agenda

Lots of supplemental topics as lobbyists arrive in capital to get on radar screens

Published on August 27, 2014
Premier Robert Ghiz
Guardian photo

The dean of Canada’s premiers is preparing to host his provincial and territorial counterparts this week in Charlottetown. Just the thought makes one quickly stop and think — can that be correct? Mr. Ghiz is just 40 years old and was only elected premier in May, 2007. But that beats out the runner-up, 49-year-old Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall by over five months. The rest of the premiers are mere babes in the woods when compared to these two grizzled veterans.

Only one other politician is currently serving longer — Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was sworn in Feb. 6, 2006. The PM declined an invitation from the premiers to their 55th annual conference, as he’s busy with his annual Arctic junket and is currently sailing near the North Pole to reinforce Canadian sovereignty, while looking for evidence of the doomed Franklin expedition.

The PM might consider the conference as a waste of his time, with better things to do than endure a two-day complaint session, but it would be a display of leadership to face his critics. The premiers do it to every prime minister — so what? It’s part of the democratic process in this far-flung nation with many concerns in various regions. It’s good for the provinces to know where their prime minister stands on issues. A lot could have been accomplished regarding federal-provincial relations in these upcoming two days.

The premiers head into their summer get-together by meeting today with national aboriginal leaders and renewing a call for a public inquiry into the calamity of the more than 1,000 missing or murdered aboriginal women.

Tonight, Sen. Percy Downe hosts a public meeting on shutting down tax evasion loopholes for Canadians hiding money in off-shore accounts which is costing the national treasury billions of dollars in lost tax revenue. Canadians for Tax Fairness, which is joining Sen. Downe tonight, are in town as observers for the premiers’ conference, a magnet for lobby groups who are hoping to get on the premiers’ radar screens.

The premiers have a busy agenda ahead of them with energy, jobs, the economy, infrastructure, health care, issues impacting Canada’s competitiveness, facilitating internal trade and improving access to international markets all coming up for discussion. They will also consider challenges related to aging, ways to ensure Canada’s work force is well equipped for the future and fiscal arrangements.

Politicians and political parties of all stripes would be wise to listen to the premiers who are very much in tune with grassroots issues affecting the average Canadian. Elections are coming up next year nationally and in several provincial jurisdictions and this week’s meetings will be a good barometer on the mood of both the premiers and the electorate.

Of course the historical significance of the premiers’ meeting in Charlottetown this week is evident wherever one turns, as Founders’ Week takes place Aug. 28 to Sept. 7 to coincide with the arrival of the Fathers of Confederation 150 years ago — discussions which led to the formation of the Dominion of Canada.

It’s likely the premiers won’t be too keen on leaving right after their meetings. The weather is expected to co-operate for golf opportunities, Canadian music superstar Shania Twain takes the stage in Charlottetown Saturday night and Tall Ships sail into port in Charlottetown Aug. 28 to 31 and then Summerside Aug. 31 to Sept.1, complete with the always impressive Parade of Sail.

Let’s hope the present day fathers (and mothers) can produce a blueprint on co-operation and agreements over the next two days that will carry us forward toward our next 150 years.