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August 29, 2014
For immediate release
Canada's Premiers concluded their 55th annual summer meeting today in Charlottetown
55th Annual Premiers’ Conference
The meetings began yesterday with a discussion on the opportunities and challenges facing the Canadian federation on the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference. The special session was held in Prince Edward Island's Province House, where, in 1864, the Fathers of Confederation began work on defining the future roles and responsibilities of the federal, provincial and territorial governments. This work continued at conferences in Québec City and London, culminating in the British North America Act and later in the Constitution Acts and amendments. During the discussion, it was acknowledged that Quebec has not agreed to the Constitution Act of 1982.
Premiers agreed that the Canadian federation has fulfilled many of the aspirations of its founders. To continue to build a strong federation, Canada’s Premiers remain committed to working together to create jobs and improve the economy in a competitive global climate while fostering a fair and inclusive society where citizens have access to public services and economic opportunities that support their well-being.
Federal program changes affect provinces and territories
While provinces and territories continue to undertake initiatives to manage program spending and grow the economy, Premiers remain concerned that the federal government’s unilateral changes to these fiscal arrangements and programs will negatively affect provinces and territories. Some of the measures the federal government has employed to achieve its surplus have created additional pressures on provincial and territorial governments and will impact services to Canadians. In addition, should the federal government introduce income splitting this would impact revenues of some provinces and territories. This downloading of funding responsibilities, along with the changing needs of Canadians in an increasingly competitive global economy, points to the need for changes in Canada’s fiscal arrangements.
Since 2006, the federal government has cut back financial support and downloaded responsibilities many times. The attached examples illustrate federal withdrawal from its responsibilities for funding and delivering services that Canadians expect. This has impacted all sectors and all groups of Canadians, from businesses and workers to families, First Nations and vulnerable people.
Premiers call on the federal government to avoid further unilateral changes to programs affecting provinces and territories, and particularly measures involving cutbacks in financial support, including offloading and downloading responsibilities.
Premiers discussed the frequency and severity of natural disasters in recent years and highlighted the impacts being experienced across the country. Premiers stressed the critical importance of continuing strong, reliable federal financial support through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements. Premiers call on the federal government to broaden the definition of a “disaster event” to include multiple smaller events that have large, cumulative impacts and to acknowledge that urban flooding can occur outside natural floodplains, maintain its 90-10 cost-sharing agreements for disaster recovery; and support communities to rebuild to a higher, more resilient standard. Premiers called on the federal government to promptly reach an agreement with provinces and territories to strengthen the future National Disaster Mitigation Program in order to better support provinces, territories and Aboriginal communities to move ahead quickly with high-priority projects.
Premiers discussed the critical role that safe, adequate and affordable housing plays in the national economy and the overall well-being of Canadians. Social and affordable housing in Canada is among the most important social infrastructure in our communities. Premiers noted that decreases in federal social housing funding will create significant challenges for provinces and territories in supporting and maintaining affordable and social housing.
Premiers call on the federal government to reinvest in social housing, replacing the declining funds. Premiers emphasized the importance of strengthened long-term collaboration between provinces and territories and the federal government to effectively meet the housing needs of Canadians now and in the future.
Search and Rescue and Marine Safety Review
The federal government has a real and clear responsibility to protect Canadian citizens and provide them access to a reliable and responsive air and marine search and rescue system. Premiers restate their call for the federal government to commit to improve search and rescue response times, and conduct a thorough review of marine safety. Canada’s Premiers also asked the federal government to reconsider its decision to close Marine Rescue Sub-Centres and Marine Communications Traffic and Service Centres.
Climate Change and Carbon Market
Premiers discussed climate change including approaches that are being taken by some governments regarding carbon pricing. They noted the recent statement by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the importance of incorporating the cost of carbon emissions in the economy. Given the ever-changing international context, Premiers agreed on the importance of being aware of the various emission reduction initiatives, ranging from Cap and Trade systems to carbon pricing and innovations, such as clean coal and other technologies. They agreed to take stock of such climate change initiatives and the economic opportunity of global action to address climate change at each of their future summer meetings. In spring 2015, Quebec will host a summit on climate change to which all Premiers will be invited to participate.