07/26/2013 01:00 EDT | Updated 09/25/2013 05:12 EDT

Abolishing the Senate 'not a top priority' for premiers

Canada's premiers and territorial leaders urged the federal government to consult the provinces and territories on changes to programs that affect them, including jobs training and health care, as they wrapped-up their summer gathering at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

Saskatchewan's efforts to get other provinces to support abolishing the Senate did not gain much traction during the premiers conference.

"It's not something that is top of mind for people in Ontario," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said after a working breakfast with the leaders on Friday.

Premier Brad Wall made his pitch to the leaders on the last day of the premiers conference but there was "no more discussion other than that," said Wynne, who is hosting the summer meeting.

Wall joked with reporters that abolishing the Senate would be the 11th recommendation from the working group on health innovation — a group he co-chairs with Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz.

Wall said different premiers have different positions on the Senate but that "it's not a top priority for Saskatchewan, the premiers or the country."

"There are other issues including the economy and health care, and you know frankly disasters that are happening that are more important," Wall said.

The RCMP is currently investigating the decision by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright to give Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 to pay off his ineligible housing expenses.

When asked for his thoughts about abolishing the Senate given the scandal surrounding Duffy, the senator who represents P.E.I., Ghiz joked, "I thought he was an Ontario senator."

Ghiz, who said he is in favour of an elected Senate, said it's a hot-button issue because it's in the news right now but it's not "a major priority" for his province.

"Hopefully at some point we will have the opportunity to sit down and have these discussions," Ghiz said.

The premiers also spoke about funding to health care and called on the federal government to avoid further "unilateral changes" to programs affecting provinces and territories.

Canada's premiers and territorial leaders also called on the federal government to establish a nationwide disaster mitigation infrastructure plan. The provinces would split the costs 50-50.