06/17/2013 10:38 EDT | Updated 08/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Bullying on agenda as western premiers meet

Western Canada's premiers and territorial leaders are in Winnipeg for their annual meeting.

The economy is always a priority when the seven leaders get together. However, this time, another item on the agenda will be bullying and how to prevent it.

Manitoba has already introduced anti-bullying legislation, but some church and school groups are objecting because they say it infringes on their religious freedom.

- Video: Manitoba's anti-bullying action plan

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said because provinces are responsible for education, one of the best places to prevent bullying is in school, "to create an atmosphere of respect and understanding."

"That's why it's important for gay-straight alliances to come together and learn to understand each other and respect each other. That's an important dimension," Selinger said.

He said federal Criminal Code amendments will deal with the bullying after the fact, but won't do much to prevent it.

The premiers will also discuss the provincial nominee program, which matches newcomers to specific job needs. Manitoba has had the most successful of all the provincial nominee programs, but Selinger said those numbers are starting to drop because of a federal cap.

"We all believe in Western Canada that immigration is a key driver in economic growth and prosperity, so we're all very interested in seeing more willingness on the part of federal government to have more people come into our jurisdictions," Selinger says.

Disaster management is another agenda topic. The federal government is looking at a 50-50 cost-share program for prevention. The premiers want to make sure Ottawa will still pick up 90 per cent of disaster relief costs.