Trudeau to meet provincial, territorial leaders amid heightened tensions

0

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will sit down with provincial and territorial leaders on March 13 to wrestle with some of the thorny issues that are dividing the nation.

The first ministers’ meeting, to be held in Ottawa, is to cover climate change, the economy, health care, infrastructure and equalization.

Announcement of the meeting comes as Trudeau is struggling to reconcile the competing demands of environmental concerns, resource development and Indigenous reconciliation.

It comes on the heels of Teck Resources’ decision to back out of a new oilsands project in Alberta, citing uncertainty over climate policy.

And as protests continue to disrupt train service across the country in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are fighting a natural gas pipeline across their territory in northern British Columbia.

Those events have heightened tensions between the federal Liberal government and conservative premiers Jason Kenney and Scott Moe in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada’s oil and gas producing heartland.

And they’ve sparked concern that Canada’s economy could be headed into a tailspin.

Kenney and Moe maintain federal environmental policies are destroying their provinces’ economies and are demanding a fairer deal in Confederation.

Among other things, they have demanded an overhaul of the equalization program under which the federal government transfers money to have-not provinces to allow them to provide comparable services at comparable tax rates as richer provinces.

This will be the sixth first ministers’ meeting Trudeau has hosted since becoming prime minister in 2015.