Prime Minister Stephen Harper won't be in attendance when the premiers meet starting today to discuss the economy.
That's a shame. It most likely would have been beneficial to have the prime minister taking part in the discussions. But even without Harper, it's still an opportunity for the premiers to have a productive meeting - as long as they don't allow differences to get in the way.
In a Canadian Press story Thursday, Glen Hodgson, the Conference Board of Canada's chief economist, said the premiers need to avoid the discord that has marked some previous gatherings and instead focus on issues under their control, such as enhancing immigration and bringing down interprovincial trade barriers.
Sounds like good advice. The provinces have a common goal and that's to craft an economic plan that can help shield them from economic turbulence. An uncertain global economy could pose a challenge to all provinces and it only makes sense to tackle the problem as a united front.
Of course, what the federal government does also plays an important part in how the provinces weather economic challenges. Ottawa's recent revision of its deficit projections now shows a deficit of $26 billion, $5 billion higher than the March budget forecast, because of global economic weakness that is impacting commodity prices and tax revenues. In spite of federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's assertion that he won't tinker with fiscal transfers to the provinces, the provinces will still be affected by these global economic waves.
It's important, then, that provincial leaders take a united approach to dealing with the economy. It's also important that Ottawa recognize its very key role in the picture. Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said in the Canadian Press story that he would like to address the matter of the $8.8-billion Building Canada Fund, the federal infrastructure program that is due to expire in 2014. "We're given to believe there will be a new infrastructure program, but we're not told what it is," said Dexter.
Hopefully, the premiers can make some headway in their meeting in Halifax. And hopefully, the federal government will do its part to assist the provinces in their common quest for economic stability.
A good start might be Harper actually attending a premiers' meeting. He last met with the premiers in 2009.
TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2013
WEDNESDAY, MAY 8, 2013
FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2013
THURSDAY, MAY 9, 2013
SATURDAY, MAY 11, 2013
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