Division expected as premiers, territorial leaders meet to discuss priorities for new minority gov’t

TORONTO (NEWS 1130) – Canada’s premiers and territorial leaders are meeting in the Greater Toronto Area on Monday, looking for ways to work together on priorities for the new Liberal minority government.

This is the first Council of the Federation meeting since the federal election, and while the focus is on finding consensus, there will be division at the table.

Amid concerns about national unity, provincial and territorial leaders will try to address some divisive topics, like the federal carbon tax and equalization payments.

However, it’s unlikely they will get everyone on the same page.

Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, who is the current chair of the Council of the Federation, said he is hopeful they can find some areas they can agree on.

“Is there a place for premiers to come together, come to a consensus on a few items on behalf of all Canadians?” he asked ahead of the sit-down.

While some division is expected at the table, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the goal for this gathering is to discuss the topics the premier do agree on, and find ways to work together.

“It’s always economic development and jobs, inter-provincial trade that can put right down to the bottom line of the GDP $75-billion for the country,” Ford said. “Healthcare is always an issue for all the provinces.”

Ford, too, seemed to be upbeat and optimistic ahead of the meeting.

“What we’re doing is we’re focusing on three, four, solid things. I feel like there’s all sorts of different ideas — there’s four key areas that we’re going to focus on, stay tuned,” he said.

As the premiers and territorial leaders arrived on Monday morning, they sounded optimistic, saying they had good discussions at a working dinner on Sunday night.

There is word the leaders may agree on a request for the federal government to boost health care transfers, and to increase the fiscal stabilization program, which sends federal financial aid to provinces that experience sudden economic turmoil.

They are expected to speak on Monday afternoon, when Canadians will learn what priorities the leaders plan to push.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not be attending the meeting, as he is flying to London for the NATO Summit.

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