To say that the federal Liberal government is completely oblivious to Saskatchewan may be a tad unfair.
For example, Ottawa recently announced $13 million for each of the next three years ($39 million) through the federal government’s Early Learning and Child Care Framework.
It might not sound like all that big a deal, but in a province struggling with a disproportional number of children living in poverty — many of them, First Nations children — this is an important policy initiative for Premier Brad Wall’s government.
And it’s certainly, an important policy for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s agenda.
But herein lies the problem:
Relations between federal and provincial governments cannot simply be based on issues that might suit both governments’ agendas … or when it suits the federal government agenda.
At the very least, there has to be mutual respect for the wants and needs of each respective government to meet the needs of the government.
In the case of the often-stormy relationship between Trudeau and Wall, it would be fair to say that Wall could choose to be less difficult.
It would also be fair to say that Wall is well aware that portraying Trudeau as anti-oil plays very well — not only within Saskatchewan Party supporters but also within the province as whole.
But it would be just as fair to argue hat Trudeau has been far too indifferent to Saskatchewan concerns. This is especially so when it comes to his approach to energy and environment — an approach that would not necessarily be in sync with the Saskatchewan economy regardless of who was in power.
A couple recent issues remind us of how removed the federal government may be.
The first is concern raised by the Wall government in response to a federal report on modernizing the National Energy Board (NEB).
One thing that Wall wants is for Saskatchewan to be the location of a new replacement board, which would makes sense given the variety of energy options that come from this province.
The Saskatchewan government also wants greater access to tidewater for Canadian-produced crude oil, to prioritize moving toward pan-Canadian crude oil self-sufficiency, and to repair the global image of Canadian crude oil through promotion of the facts at home and abroad.
“Our government welcomes changes that will result in the approval of sound energy projects,” said Energy Minis Dustin Duncan in a news release. “But those projects must be built in a timely manner for the benefit of all Canadians, including those who live and work in Saskatchewan.”
However, the federal government seems to be leaning towards panel recommendations to get rid of the old NEB and replace it with two separate bodies — one of them being, a Canadian Energy Transmission Commission (CETC) that would conduct technical reviews of any pipeline projects. It would be located in Ottawa.
If the federal Liberals go this route, it would suggest they are oblivious to Saskatchewan’s concerns. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Recently, Regina Leader-Post reporter David Fraser received a Freedom of Information request reply in which Ottawa blacked out all information on how much revenue the carbon tax will generate from Saskatchewan each year.
The response sent to Fraser had a graph entitled: “Calculation of revenue from a $50/tonne carbon tax in 2022”. But the total cost to Saskatchewan — which the provincial estimates will be $2.5 billion annually once the full $50-a-tonne federal carbon pricing levy is implemented in 2022 — was redacted.
About the only concession we have seen from Ottawa on the carbon tax issue is its white paper suggestion that it won’t apply to farming.
Ottawa needs to do better.
Trudeau needs to show a true willingness to work with Saskatchewan … and not just when it’s convenient for him.