Officials from several provinces say affordability is their top priority heading into Monday’s premiers’ meeting as the cost of living soars across the country.
Premiers in Atlantic Canada say the federal government’s new clean fuel regulations are driving up the price of gas, diesel and home heating as many struggle to pay their bills.
Last month, the four Atlantic premiers sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying federal regulations are going to hurt their provinces more than others, and urging Ottawa to reconsider the regulations.
The region relies heavily on oil for home heating; more than half of the households on Prince Edward Island heat their homes with oil. Prices have jumped as much as 25 cents a litre since new regulations took effect on July 1.
“We are increasingly concerned that federal measures with a known disproportionate impact on Atlantic Canada are proceeding,” said the letter, signed by P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson will host her provincial and territorial counterparts for three days of discussions in Winnipeg. The premiers gather every summer to discuss shared priorities and present a united front when calling on the federal government for financial help and regulatory changes.
B.C. Premier David Eby plans on raising the housing crisis as one of his top priorities.
A senior B.C. government official told CBC News that the need for affordable housing in B.C. is particularly acute because of “challenges arising from an increase in population,” largely attributable to an influx of immigrants to the province in response to labour shortages.
Nunavut’s premier P.J. Akeeagok is also focused on housing. He wants more federal support for the construction of 1,000 housing units that his government plans to build by the end of his term and is looking for investments toward a goal of 3,000 units by 2030.
“Not only do our Inuit communities continue to experience a housing crisis and overcrowding in homes, but Nunavummiut see some of the highest costs of living in the country,” Akeeagok said in a statement to CBC News.
The Early Edition12:46Premier David Eby on the cost of housing in British Columbia
Ontario is joining that push. Both provinces want Ottawa’s help with increasing the housing supply to keep pace with a growing population.
“As we welcome hundreds of thousands of newcomers every year, we need to ensure we’re building the infrastructure required to keep pace with our historic growth,” Premier Doug Ford said in a statement to CBC News.
“My priority at this year’s summer meeting is making sure we are doing everything we can to get shovels in the ground faster so we can build more homes and deliver on key projects.”
Those projects include mining in northern Ontario’s mineral-rich Ring of Fire and the proposed Highway 413, which would connect suburbs in the Greater Toronto Area.
Ford said he also will call on Ottawa to reduce what he calls “unnecessary duplication” on federal reviews and provincial environmental assessments for infrastructure projects.
Health care on the agenda
Manitoba’s Stefanson said her priorities for the meeting, as the current Chair of the Council of the Federation, include public safety, infrastructure and improving trade corridors across Canada.
She said she expects health care issues will come up but won’t dominate the meeting, as they have in recent years.
After repeated requests for additional health-care funding, Ottawa offered the provinces and territories in February roughly $46 billion in new funding over 10 years.
The deal fell short of the premiers’ request for a $28 billion annual increase to the Canada Health Transfer.
The agenda for Tuesday does include discussion of improvements to the health-care system. Premiers are looking to push the federal government to continue its commitment to funding increases. The leaders are expected to discuss economic issues on Wednesday.
Inuit leader skipping meeting with Indigenous leadership
Premiers also will sit down with national Indigenous leaders, including Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron and Assembly of First Nations Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, at Assiniboine Park.
Stefanson also extended invitations for that meeting to the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), which was created to represent the interests of urban Indigenous people, and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).
The organization representing Inuit in Canada will not be at the table. Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), told CBC News he turned down the invitation because of a dispute over the inclusion of non-rights-holding Indigenous groups.
In a joint statement on Friday, the ITK and National Métis Council leaders called the inclusion of CAP and NWAC “inappropriate” because the groups “claim to represent Inuit and Métis rights.”
Caron said she will attend, in part, “to bring to the premiers clear terms for future participation” in the annual meeting.