First Ministers Meeting – A Plan of Action for the Economy
January 26, 2021

Ottawa Journal (January 26 – January 30, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Harper met with Canada’s Premiers and Territorial leaders in an effort to work together on developing a plan of action for stimulating the Canadian economy. This important meeting provided an opportunity for the Premiers and Territorial Leaders to share their priorities with the Prime Minister for the Federal Budget and to ensure that our country will emerge from the global recession better and stronger.

Several themes emerged from the January 16th meeting including the importance of strengthening Canada’s economy through meaningful new investments in budgets to support our economy in the short-term and in the long-term. The First Ministers agreed to ensuring the continued availability of credit, so Canadian businesses have access to capital. This will allow businesses to expand their operations and create employment opportunities. There was also agreement to take more action on securing Canadian pension plans. The Prime Minister reaffirmed the Government of Canada’s intent to make permanent changes to the framework for federally regulated pensions in 2009.

Another theme that arose during the First Ministers meeting was action for workers and the unemployed by amending two chapters of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), which build on the work completed by the Council of the Federation. The amendments will enhance full labour mobility by recognizing, across all jurisdictions, any worker certified for an occupation by a regulatory authority of one province or territory. Furthermore, the amendments also establish a clear and effective dispute resolution mechanism for the AIT. The Ministers agreed to identifying priority areas for progress on harmonizing business regulations and standards. There was agreement in developing a common framework to recognize foreign credentials by September 2009 and to identify new ways to provide effective and complimentary responses to workers and the unemployed, including: enhancements to existing programs to support workers and making existing programs more flexible and ensuring that any new investments will incorporate added flexibility and appropriate accountability. The First Ministers were also in agreement that quick action is needed to ensure the Aboriginal labour force is well prepared for the future with skills training and support.

Lastly, the theme of infrastructure investments was discussed at length during the meeting. There was widespread agreement that immediate steps be taken to ensure the flow of money for infrastructure projects moves quickly for the 2009 and 2010 construction seasons. The First Ministers agreed that red tape on infrastructure projects needs to be cut and can be done so by: simplifying the federal review process for applications under Building Canada and to flow the money faster; and to streamline the regulatory and environmental approvals process to avoid unnecessary overlap and duplication. There was also agreement in accelerating Building Canada infrastructure projects where provinces and territories are in agreement and to identify ways Aboriginal people can benefit from infrastructure projects, including: employment, skills upgrading, and business opportunities. 

In addition to identifying common ground with respect to the economy, workers, the unemployed, and infrastructure, the Prime Minister informed the First Ministers that the Government of Canada will move forward with its plan to introduce a common securities regulator on a voluntary basis that respects constitutional jurisdiction, as well as regional interests and expertise.

The First Ministers meeting proved to be immensely productive, as the leaders of our Provinces and Territories worked with the Prime Minister to develop an effective plan of action for our country which included strengthening our economy, taking action for workers and the unemployed, and making infrastructure investments. This plan addresses what our country needs right now during this time of global downturn to ensure Canada emerges from it stronger than ever before.