POLITICS

Infrastructure spending a priority at premiers meeting in Ottawa: Wall

01/30/2015 04:57 EST | Updated 04/01/2015 05:59 EDT
REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says federal infrastructure spending was the priority at the premiers winter meeting in Ottawa.

Wall said British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan want the federal government to spend more on highways and ports.

In November, the three leaders attended their own New West Partnership meeting in Regina where they called on Ottawa for more than $1 billion to improve transportation.

"As we open up Asian markets critical to our province's economy, we need to make sure logistically we can serve the markets," Wall said on Friday.

He added that other priorities included reducing provincial barriers for diversified trade in Canada.

Eleven of the country's 13 premiers attended the meeting in Ottawa. Wall and Jim Prentice of Alberta skipped it, although Wall dialed in. He said teleconferencing is more affordable, although he plans to attend the summer meeting in person.

Improving transportation in the Asian-Pacific corridor will remain a priority for the New West provinces.

"Generally speaking the West works together at that table," he said. "Especially on issues like the ask for the infrastructure investment for the Pacific gateway."

In Ottawa, the premiers presented a united front on infrastructure.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has proposed a multibillion-dollar, federal-provincial infrastructure partnership, criticized federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver for a statement issued earlier in the day.

Oliver expressed dismay that the premiers were seeking more federal money for infrastructure at a time when falling oil prices threaten Ottawa's finances.

"The response that Mr. Oliver has given so quickly to our discussions really demonstrates, in my opinion, that the oblivion is not on the part of the premiers," Wynne said.

"The oblivion actually is on the part of the federal government that is apparently not listening to all of the voices at this table, who have said that infrastructure and investment in infrastructure is very important on a number of fronts."

— With files from Lee-Ann Goodman in Ottawa