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Trade tops agenda at Wednesday’s premiers’ meeting


Canada’s provincial and territorial leaders will spend the next two days discussing a wide range of issues during closed-door meetings in Saskatoon, beginning with economic growth and competitiveness, internal trade and infrastructure.

“Canada, our nation, needs to continue to be competitive and we know that a strong economy is essential if we are to ensure continued high quality of life for all of the Canadians that we ultimately represent,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on Wednesday morning.

“Trade is so very crucial to our economic success and we look forward to the discussion on how we might strengthen our international trade relations at this time of uncertainty, and also continue the effort to reduce trade barriers within our nation, between our jurisdictions.”

In an interview last week, Moe said the two-year-old Canadian Free Trade Agreement is a good start, but that it could be improved by reducing the dozens of exceptions put forward by the provincial, territorial and federal governments when it was being negotiated.

In a letter to Moe earlier this week, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Bill Morneau said Ottawa is “supportive of enhancing the overall ambition of the (Canadian Free Trade Agreement)” and that he is open to negotiations aimed at reducing the number of exceptions.

Morneau, in the letter, encouraged the premiers to consider changes to allow alcohol to move more freely across provincial and territorial borders. Most provinces have some restrictions on how much alcohol people can bring home for personal use.

The federal government is also willing to explore a method for ensuring provinces receive revenue from direct-to-consumer alcohol sales, potentially through a new federal levy on sales that cut out provincial liquor authorities, Morneau said in the letter.

Earlier this year, Saskatchewan eliminated its restrictions on the amount of booze people can bring in from other provinces. Saskatchewan residents have long been known to buy alcohol in Alberta, where it can be cheaper, and transport it back into the province.

Council of the Federation (COF) kicked off Tuesday when nine premiers met with Indigenous leaders at Big River First Nation near Debden, about 165 kilometres north of Saskatoon. It has been called a historic moment, the first time Canada’s premiers have gathered on a First Nation.

That meeting also resulted in Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde breaking his two-year boycott of the premiers meeting. Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Bellegarde — who is from Saskatchewan — said that decision was based in part on the fact the meeting was held on a First Nation.




Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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