55th Annual Premiers’ Conference

Canada’s Premiers concluded their 55th annual summer meeting, August 29 in Charlottetown. The meetings began with a discussion on the opportunities and challenges facing the Canadian federation on the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference.

The Premiers remain committed to working together to create jobs and improve the economy in a competitive global climate while fostering a fair and inclusive society where citizens have access to public services and economic opportunities that support their well-being.

Key recommendations from the meeting include:

More funds for health, infrastructure from Ottawa
Canada’s premiers say the federal government must step forward with more funding to help provincial governments deal with infrastructure and growing healthcare needs. There was no consensus on how much federal funding should be doled out to the provinces, but the premiers agreed that funding priorities should include aid for crumbling infrastructure, and the healthcare costs associated with Canada’s aging population.

The premiers say they have reason to be concerned. They cited a Conference Board of Canada study which found that as Ottawa grows richer, the debt-ridden provinces will continue to struggle.

Federal program changes affect provinces and territories - some of the measures the federal government has employed to achieve its surplus have created additional pressures on provincial and territorial governments and will impact services to Canadians. This downloading of funding responsibilities, along with the changing needs of Canadians in an increasingly competitive global economy, points to the need for changes in Canada’s fiscal arrangements.

Disaster Mitigation
Premiers stressed the critical importance of continuing strong, reliable federal financial support through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements. Premiers call on the federal government to broaden the definition of a "disaster event" to include multiple smaller events that have large, cumulative impacts and to acknowledge that urban flooding can occur outside natural floodplains, maintain its 90:10 cost-sharing agreements for disaster recovery; and support communities to rebuild to a higher, more resilient standard. Premiers called on the federal government to promptly reach an agreement with provinces and territories to strengthen the future National Disaster Mitigation Program in order to better support provinces, territories and Aboriginal communities to move ahead quickly with high-priority projects.

Climate Change and Carbon Market
Premiers discussed climate change including approaches that are being taken by some governments regarding carbon pricing. They noted the recent statement by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the importance of incorporating the cost of carbon emissions in the economy. Given the ever-changing international context, Premiers agreed on the importance of being aware of the various emission reduction initiatives, ranging from Cap and Trade systems to carbon pricing and innovations, such as clean coal and other technologies. They agreed to take stock of such climate change initiatives and the economic opportunity of global action to address climate change at each of their future summer meetings. In spring 2015, Quebec will host a summit on climate change in which all Premiers will be invited to participate.

Canadian Water and Wastewater Association