OTTAWA – Two western conservative premiers, Alberta’s Jim Prentice and Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall, will not be in attendance at this week’s premiers’ meeting in Ottawa. B.C.’s Christy Clark says she’ll represent the West at Friday’s Council of the Federation get-together, where the impact of sliding oil prices on the economy is expected to be a key topic.
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“I’m the only western premier going,” Clark said in an interview. “I’ll be advancing the interests of western Canada and B.C. when I’m there.”
The Liberal premier said she’s talked to Prentice and Wall ahead of the meeting “to make sure we are all on the same page” about the agenda.
“We are all really focused on how we grow the economy on internal trade,” she said.
“As the world goes through all of this turmoil, for heaven’s sake, we should be trading freely between our own provinces. That’s the best way, the quickest way to be able to strengthen the national economy.”
Wall’s office says the Saskatchewan Party premier will dial into the meeting and take part via conference call.
“It’s part of the premier’s commitment to watch all travel costs in advance of the budget and he has participated in Council of the Federation meetings via phone before,” a Wall spokesperson said.
READ MORE: Sask. premier says falling oil prices will tighten next year’s budget
Wall didn’t attend a western premiers’ meeting in July in Iqaluit, either, dialing into the meeting instead of making the trip to the Arctic.
Prentice, meantime, is sending Alberta’s municipal affairs minister because the premier is currently preoccupied with the upcoming provincial budget, his office said.
The Council of the Federation meets twice a year. Its main function is to present a united front among the 13 provinces and territories when dealing with the federal government. In addition to its formal meeting, the council gatherings also allow premiers to discuss a host of issues concerning their provinces and territories on the sidelines of official events.
“Personally, I prefer to meet face-to-face,” Bob McLeod, premier of the Northwest Territories, said Tuesday in Ottawa. “It’s a very good forum for us as a small jurisdiction.”
Robert Ghiz, premier of Prince Edward Island, is hosting the meeting.
“While I can’t speak for all of Canada’s premiers, I can tell you that Premier Ghiz is looking forward to meeting with his colleagues and views these meetings as a valuable opportunity to share ideas and discuss common priorities and challenges,” his spokeswoman, Krista Grant, said in an email.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne recently invited Prime Minister Stephen Harper to attend the meeting after the two met on Jan. 5 for the first time in more than a year.
The Prime Minister’s Office has said Harper won’t attend, saying he meets regularly with the provincial premiers one-on-one.
With files from Dirk Meissner in Victoria, Dean Bennett in Edmonton and Clare Clancy in Regina