Regina’s mayor says it’s a “big concern” that Saskatchewan has no representation at the federal cabinet table after the province’s sole Liberal MP was defeated by his Conservative challenger on Monday night.
That’s part of the reason Mayor Michael Fougere looks forward to discussing issues important to the province, and to Western Canada, when he takes a phone call from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau early next week.
“It’s incumbent on the federal government to reach out in a way that’s substantive and action-oriented, and hear the concerns and act upon them right away — that, to me, is an imperative,” Fougere said Friday afternoon.
Trudeau has already spoken with Premier Scott Moe, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson. He is expected to call Fougere and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark on Tuesday.
Those discussions have focused on “ how the different orders of government can help make life more affordable for Canadians, build a stronger middle class, and work collaboratively toward a stronger country,” PMO spokesperson Brook Simpson said.
While Trudeau will have his agenda items, Fougere said he will “not be shy” about raising the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, the federal carbon tax and trade issues affecting Saskatchewan farmers.
It’s also important that funds continue to flow from Ottawa’s $896-million Investing in Canada i nfrastructure program, the root of a major dust-up between the federal and provincial governments over the summer , Fougere added.
“There is a need to build policies and programs that find the common ground in how we support a changing resource economy, create new opportunities in the green economy and play our part in tackling climate change,” Clark said in a statement.
“This is not easy work, there are real tensions, but we have a history of working together as a country that we need to build on. Cities need to be part of the solution,” Clark added.
Conservative candidates defeated all five Liberal incumbents in Alberta and Saskatchewan on Monday night, including two prominent cabinet ministers — Ralph Goodale in Regina–Wascana and Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton Mill Woods.
That leaves the Liberals, who were reduced to a 157-seat minority government, with the problem of western representation in cabinet. It has long been a convention, though not an inviolable one, that prime ministers appoint a minister from each province.
That question takes on added significance given the simmering discontent with the Liberals across much of Western Canada. In an interview with Global News, a member of a group that campaigned against Goodale acknowledged that could be a problem .
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa two days after the votes were counted, Trudeau said he talked to Moe and Kenney after the election, and that he was reflecting on the question of representation. He did not say how that will be accomplished.
While the prime minister did not make any commitments, he signalled his intentions to speak with the mayors of Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and Edmonton “to hear concerns that folks are experiencing and the solutions they have put forward.”
That move did not appear to please the Saskatchewan government, which resumed a hardline stance against Ottawa hours after the votes were counted, while other conservative premiers appeared to take a more conciliatory tone .
Speaking to reporters in Regina on Thursday, Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said that while the province has no problem with conversations between leaders, it would oppose any formal arrangement between Ottawa and the cities.
“That’s not how the country works. Just because the prime minister doesn’t like the positions of Premier Moe and Premier Kenney doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be working through them and talking to them,” Harrison said.
“How is that furthering or acknowledging the legitimate issues that are out there?”
The premier’s office said Moe requested an in-person meeting with Trudeau when they spoke earlier this week, and that “the prime minister was receptive.”
Fougere emphasized that the province must play a leading role in negotiations with Ottawa, and that while he is happy to share advice with the prime minister, the upcoming call is an informal one.
“If the prime minister’s going to phone me, I’m going to take the call, but the way to move these issues forward is a conversation between the federal government and the province,” he said.