ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Five things the country’s premiers agreed on at their annual meeting:
— After years of discussions, the premiers reached an agreement on a national energy strategy that supports project development and action against climate change. The strategy promotes research and technology in the energy sector, which the premiers say will lower Canada’s carbon footprint. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall pushed the economic importance of the oil and gas industry throughout talks, often finding himself at odds with his counterparts who wanted greater emphasis on environmental responsibility.
— The premiers backed a call from British Columbia and Saskatchewan for a national approach to fighting forest fires. They want the Canadian Forces to receive additional training in fighting forest fires, and resources and equipment to combat fires to be shared between provinces. They also agreed to get their ministers responsible for emergency measures to work with the federal government on recommendations made at the meeting.
— The federal government will be allowed to join a provincial and territorial alliance to buy prescription drugs in bulk. Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose has been pushing to join the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance for some time, as the federal government is one of the biggest buyers of prescription drugs in Canada. The hope is that Ottawa will bring all of its drug plans to the alliance, not just some, thereby increasing the group’s buying power.
— Inter-provincial deals were reached on shipbuilding and alcohol. Nova Scotia and British Columbia signed an agreement that will make it easier for workers to move between shipbuilding projects on the two coasts. Meanwhile, B.C. and Saskatchewan agreed to allow wine and specialty spirits to flow more easily between them. That means people in Saskatchewan can order B.C. wines online and residents of B.C. can buy specialty spirits from Saskatchewan. Premier Christy Clark encouraged her fellow B.C. residents to give dill pickle vodka from Saskatchewan a try with clamato juice.
— Another inter-provincial agreement will make it easier for apprentices to move between the provinces and territories while they are doing their training. Nova Scotia has been among the provinces pushing for the changes, which it says will recognize apprentices’ training and necessary hours to complete their apprenticeships no matter where they are in Canada. The agreement is meant to build the country’s skilled workforce.