Stefanson snubs Smith’s offer of Churchill meeting
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A proposed meeting of Prairie premiers in Churchill was placed firmly on the back-burner by Manitoba’s first minister.
“There are other more pressing things for us to be dealing with right now,” Premier Heather Stefanson said on Monday, when asked whether she would host Alberta Premier Danielle Smith in the northern port town.
Smith sent a letter to Stefanson and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, which she posted to social media on Friday, requesting a meeting in Churchill to discuss “opportunities” to increase exports to Europe, including a possible pipeline or rail improvements to carry oil to the Hudson Bay.
“One of my first priorities as premier of Alberta is to harness the initiative of provinces rather than waiting for federal action,” Smith wrote to Stefanson and Moe.
“I believe it is incumbent on our provinces to play a leadership role in expanding and advocating for better market access, including working together to push for a renewed look at the Port of Churchill.”
Stefanson said Smith’s proposal is not a priority. Affordability, health care, and homelessness take precedence, she said.
“She’s facing an election and some tough things, and tough challenges politically within her own province, and she wants to get some of these issues out of the way,” Stefanson said.
Federal Conservative party Leader Pierre Poilievre championed the idea of shipping Alberta oil out of Churchill during his leadership campaign. However, efforts to ship oil through Churchill have long been met with opposition from environmentalists and local and Indigenous communities.
A discussion about inter-provincial collaboration on the Port of Churchill may take place at a later date, Stefanson said. Manitoba could play a role in addressing a “very significant energy challenge” in Europe, the premier noted.
“Obviously, we want to ensure that First Nations communities would benefit from anything that is even considered, and that they’re consulted appropriately,” Stefanson said.
“I think we can be part of the solution, but let’s have that discussion with the federal government and across the country as well.”
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the No. 1 inter-provincial priority is health care and premiers should be focused on a strategy to get more workers to the front lines.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
Updated on Monday, October 31, 2022 7:46 PM CDT: typo fixed