Scott Moe says his 'new deal' takes back seat to agreements between 13 premiers

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his "new deal with Canada" is secondary to what has been agreed to by the nation's 13 premiers.

On Monday, Moe chaired a Toronto-area meeting of the first ministers of the provinces and territories, calling its consensus results "unprecedented." 

"I think when you have 13 premiers coming to an agreement on these items, that is the priority for us here in the province of Saskatchewan," said Moe, the current chair of the Council of the Federation, which includes all 13 provincial and territorial leaders.

The Monday meeting was not a regularly scheduled gathering of the premiers, but they decided to meet in response to October's federal election, during which Justin Trudeau's Liberals were returned to power with a minority government, but with no MPs from Alberta or Saskatchewan.

On Monday, the premiers agreed to ask the federal government to improve its environmental assessment regime, increase health care transfers, and to pursue changes to the fiscal stabilization program.

Contentious issues like equalization, pipelines and the carbon tax were not on the meeting agenda. Moe said climate policy was discussed in the summer at the premiers' meetings in Saskatoon. 

He said this week, the provincial and territorial leaders were able to "narrow down discussion points to a few that we could agree on."

The ask on behalf of the premiers to the federal government is markedly different from Moe's post-election statement on Oct. 22, where he called for what he dubbed a "new deal with Canada."

Moe asked the newly re-elected Liberal government to kill the carbon tax, commit to negotiating a new equalization formula, and pursue new pipeline projects.

A week later, in a letter to the prime minister, Moe asked for a one-year pause of the carbon tax and for Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador to receive one-time per capita payments through the fiscal stabilization program as a makeweight for money they don't receive through the federal equalization formula. 

The premiers agreed this week that the federal government should update the fiscal stabilization program, last altered in 1987.

Moe seemed hopeful that the most recent ask on behalf of 13 premiers was attainable.

"It's time for our federal government to make some commitments, and I feel they will be open to that."

Moe also said last week that he had a "very good meeting" with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The Saskatchewan premier said he hopes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will set the agenda for the opening day of the first ministers' meetings in the new year, and allow the premiers to set the agenda for Day 2.

He said he has given the prime minister a "road map" and a "real opportunity" to act in response to regional frustrations.