In a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney prioritized support for his province’s economy as well as for the federal government to end the CN Rail strike.
“I explained to her that every day the CN Rail strike continues hurts Albertans and kills jobs and profits of businesses across Canada, and I repeated our government’s call for her government to recall Parliament and legislate an end to the strike,” read a statement issued by Kenney after the meeting.
Now in its seventh day, the CN Rail strike involves over 3,200 workers demanding improved working conditions and rest breaks.
A CN Rail union spokesperson told Reuters Monday that they were no closer to reaching a deal to end the strike than when labour action began a week ago.
In a video posted to Twitter, Kenney requested that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recall parliament to get the rail strike resolved as soon as possible.
“It’s damaging not only for Quebec for their propane, but obviously for Alberta farmers, our energy sector and so many others,” said Kenney.
Several other politicians, including three senators from Maritime provinces, also urged Trudeau to summon parliament next week to resolve the strike. Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said earlier Monday that there was no timeline on whether or not the federal government would intervene in the strike.
The statement also included a list of priorities which Kenney said he urgently raised with Freeland during the meeting.
Some of the priorities included a guarantee of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion’s completion on a fixed date, a $1.72B equalization rebate payment to Alberta and a repeal of Bill C-48 and Bill C-69.
Many other job-creating priorities for Alberta were outlined in statement as well.
“On election night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he had heard our frustration and wants to be there to support us. I appreciate Minister Freeland’s willingness to listen and work with us, but the measure of the Prime Minister’s sincerity will be swift action on these urgent issues,” said Kenney.
Freeland was in Alberta to meet with Western Canadian leaders — the first trip she’s making in her new role.
Freeland was in Alberta to meet with Western Canadian leaders Monday — the first trip she’s making in her new role.
Her itinerary, which included meetings with Kenney and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, marked her first initiative in the role of deputy prime minister — a role that Trudeau said last week would be largely focused on national unity.
In a tweet posted after their meeting, Iveson said that two spoke about Edmonton’s economic, environmental and social concerns.
“I’m committed to building a collaborative relationship with this government because that is what our city and country needs,” said Iveson.
Speaking alongside Kenney before heading off to their meeting, Freeland said that she was there to try and find “common ground” with the west.
Tensions between the current Liberal government and the west have recently deepened over federal policies that Kenney says are “failing our province.”
In what has been billed as an effort by the federal government to address deep regional divisions, Freeland, who was formerly the minister of foreign affairs, was promoted in last week’s cabinet shuffle and named both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
“Chrystia and I have worked very closely on some of the biggest files facing Canada,” he said following the cabinet shuffle.
“Our ability to work well together on these issues — which, quite frankly, touch national unity, the environment, touch relations with all provinces and regions in this country — is going to be a very important thing at a time when we see a range of perspectives across the country that need to be brought together.”
Trudeau has previously held a series of meetings with Western Canadian leaders since he was re-elected with a minority.
Those include in-person meetings in Ottawa and phone calls with Kenney, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister as well as local mayors from across the West.
Alongside Freeland, Trudeau met with Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Friday, who, along with the Western premiers, has been a frequent critic of Trudeau’s carbon tax.
Last week, however, Ford called for national unity and a calming of the political rhetoric.
Freeland, who remains the minister responsible for Canada’s relations with the U.S. as well, said many of the lessons she learned renegotiating the NAFTA trade deal will directly apply to how she approaches trying to heal divides with the Western provinces.
“I think what we have to do as a federal government when it comes to the West, as with all our relationships, is really listen hard,” she told reporters last week.
“The election sent a message from the West to our party, and now is a moment when we need to respond, to begin with, by listening really hard and effectively.”
Freeland is also set to meet with Moe in Regina on Tuesday.
— With files from Maryam Shah and David Baxter
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