Jim Prentice, Brad Wall skipping premiers’ meeting in Ottawa

B.C.’s Christy Clark says she’ll represent the West in the absence of Alberta and Saskatchewan premiers

OTTAWA – Two western conservative premiers, Alberta’s Jim Prentice and Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall, will not be part of this week’s premiers’ meeting in Ottawa.

B.C.’s Christy Clark says she’ll represent the West at Friday’s Council of the Federation get-together, where the impact of sliding oil prices on the economy is expected to be a key topic.

“I’m the only western premier going,” Clark said in an interview. “I’ll be advancing the interests of western Canada and B.C. when I’m there.”

The Liberal premier said she’s talked to Prentice and Wall ahead of the meeting “to make sure we are all on the same page” about the agenda.

“We are all really focused on how we grow the economy on internal trade,” she said.

“As the world goes through all of this turmoil, for heaven’s sake we should be trading freely between our own provinces. That’s the best way, the quickest way to be able to strengthen the national economy.”

Wall’s office says the Saskatchewan Party premier will dial into the meeting.

“It’s part of the premier’s commitment to watch all travel costs in advance of the budget and he has participated in Council of the Federation meetings via phone before,” a Wall spokesperson said.

Wall didn’t attend a western premiers’ meeting in July in Iqaluit, either, dialing into the meeting instead of making the trip to the Arctic.

Prentice, meantime, is sending Alberta’s municipal affairs minister because the premier is currently preoccupied with the upcoming provincial budget, his office said.

The Council of the Federation meets twice a year. Its main function is to present a united front among the 13 provinces and territories when dealing with the federal government.

In addition to its formal meeting, the council gatherings also allow premiers to mix and mingle on the sidelines.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne recently invited Prime Minister Stephen Harper to attend the meeting after the two met on Jan. 5 for the first time in more than a year.

The Prime Minister’s Office has said Harper won’t attend, saying he meets regularly with the provincial premiers one-on-one.

—With files from Dirk Meissner in Victoria, Dean Bennett in Edmonton and Clare Clancy in Regina

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