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UPDATE: Will three new provincial premiers shift the balance against Harper on key issues?

By the time the premiers next meet as a group this July in Niagara-on-the-Lake with the 2014 Canada Health Accord on the table, Ontario will be represented by Premier Kathleen Wynne (who is being sworn in today), Quebec will be represented by Premier Pauline Marois (who was elected in September, just a couple months after the last Council of the Federation meeting in Halifax in late-July), and British Columbia will likely be represented by Premier Adrian Dix (who is widely expected to win the May 14 provincial election).

Wynne, Marois and Dix

Wynne, Marois and Dix have already given some interesting signals with respect to countering the Harper agenda:

– In late-November 2012, the Globe and Mail reported Wynne saying “she wants to forge a united front with her provincial colleagues to extract a fairer deal from Ottawa. …If the provinces were to become one big squeaky wheel, it would be much more difficult for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ignore any pleas for reform, she said.”

– Marois is already responsible for having successfully shifted Harper on a key issue. In September 2012, the Globe and Mail reported, “Canada is ending its much-maligned practice of defending asbestos mining… The Harper government is blaming the incoming Parti Québécois regime for its change of heart. Premier-designate Pauline Marois’s party pledged during the provincial election campaign to cancel a government loan guarantee designed to resurrect the big Jeffrey asbestos mine in Asbestos, Que.”

– And in August 2012, Dix stated, “The European Union is demanding increased patent protection for European drug companies that will cost provincial and employer drug plans hundreds of millions of dollars. This deal will block our access to cheaper, generic drugs, put B.C.’s health budget under increased strain and ultimately threaten the quality of care received by British Columbians. At a time when the Harper government is unilaterally cutting health transfers to the provinces, B.C. cannot stand idly by while pharmaceutical costs are unnecessarily inflated to benefit European drug companies.”

It may also be that the NDP governments in Manitoba and Nova Scotia will find additional political space with these new premiers at the table. Already, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has backed his health minister who has continued to fund health care for refugees after the Harper government’s slashing of this assistance (and is even sending the bills to Ottawa), and it is under Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter that Bill 144 was passed, legislation described by our health care campaigner as “the most progressive bill on health care in Canada for the past 30 years.”

The new constellation of premiers may also be interesting with respect to Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s push for a Canadian Energy Strategy. Dix is an opponent of the Northern Gateway pipeline (but has not taken a position on the Trans Mountain pipeline, and supports the Pacific Trails pipeline), Marois has announced that the Gentilly-2 nuclear plant in Quebec will be closed, has backed her natural resources minister’s call for a permanent moratorium on fracking, and three of her ministers have expressed concern about the Line 9 pipeline (though she appears to have nuanced their statements), and Wynne is facing a World Trade Organization ruling against the Ontario Green Energy Act and the reality that the tar sands and the resulting petro-dollar have harmed manufacturing jobs in Ontario.

More on the July 24-26 Council of the Federation meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=19003.