Premiers invite Prime Minister Stephen Harper for meeting on economy

HALIFAX – Canada’s premiers are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to attend a first ministers meeting later this year to discuss the economy, but it’s unclear whether he will attend.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter has extended an invitation to Harper to meet the premiers this fall to lay out the country’s economic future.

“He has 13 willing partners who want to construct and ensure a successful Canadian economy,” Dexter told a news conference Thursday in Halifax, where he is hosting the annual premiers meeting.

“We don’t believe that meeting with the premiers is an optional thing to do. It’s part of the job that you have when you’re the prime minister.”

Dexter said Harper’s attendance is vital in ensuring the provinces are protected from a global economy in flux.

“In this case, we are taking about something that is fundamental to the best interests of the Canadian public — a strong economy,” he said.

“Why would a prime minister not want to meet with us on that kind of an issue?”

Quebec Premier Jean Charest echoed Dexter’s comments.

“We need to sit down rapidly and take stock of what’s happening around the world,” Charest said.

“We cannot hope to make the right decisions in regards to our economy unless both levels of government work together.”

A spokesman for Harper wouldn’t say specifically whether Harper would attend the meeting.

“The prime minister has had many productive discussions on the economy with his provincial counterparts and will surely have many more over the months to come,” Andrew MacDougall said in an email.

Dexter said he will be organizing the meeting along with the premiers of Ontario and Alberta in the hopes of hosting it in Halifax in November.

Dexter has taken Harper to task in recent days over his reluctance to hold first ministers meetings. It’s been three years since Harper last met with the premiers.