Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Canada’s premiers did a lot of good work on health care and energy this week in Halifax — but it would have been better if Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been involved.
On energy, Dunderdale is at the front of drafting an energy strategy for the country, along with Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger.
Nationally, this week’s Council of the Federation (COF) meeting was dominated by a spat between Alberta and British Columbia over the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline carrying oil to the Pacific coast.
Ultimately, B.C. Premier Alison Redford opted not to participate in the energy strategy.
But Dunderdale said for this province’s purposes, the important thing is that Quebec Premier Jean Charest is opting in.
She said it’s an embarrassment that Newfoundland and Labrador can’t transmit power through other provinces. She said the value of the strategy and the COF meetings is that it will help develop a standard set of rules.
“We’re not going to settle deals at the COF table; that’s not the appropriate place to negotiate energy projects province-to-province,” Dunderdale said.
“What we need to establish there are the principles that are going to guide us.”
Currently there is no legal system in Canada requiring provinces to provide open access for transmission to each other, however many provinces are governed by the United States’ rules, since they sell power into the U.S. market.
“I think it is embarrassing to be in this circumstance in a mature country where we have to go to the United States to be able to wheel electricity in our own country,” she said.
“We have to try and tackle this situation as best as we can as 13 different jurisdictions in the country.”
Similarly, on health care, Dunderdale said the provinces are doing the best they can to reduce costs.
However, on both health care and energy, she said that Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to be more directly involved, and show more in the way of leadership.
“The provinces deliver health care, but the federal government are partners in that, in that they provide funding. When this relationship was established, 50 per cent of the funding for health care in this country came from the federal government,” she said.
“In Newfoundland and Labrador now we’re down to 15.9 per cent, I think it is.”