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Scheer seeks common ground, meets with Trudeau

Scheer seeks common ground

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe's back-to-back meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday yielded few results in the search for national unity after a divisive federal election.

With the House of Commons to return on Dec. 5, Scheer said it's up to Trudeau to ensure the throne speech attracts enough support to keep the government standing, while Moe suggested it's time for his province to find a way to act more on its own.

Moe said he arrived in Ottawa in good faith to hear how Trudeau plans to make good on a promise he made on election night: that he would address the frustrations of voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan who didn't elected a single Liberal MP between them on Oct. 21.

"I came today to hear about what he was going to do differently to support the industries and the people in our province and I can tell you this — I did not hear that there is going to be anything different, there is going to be more of the same," a visibly upset Moe said after the meeting.

Before it began, Trudeau had suggested it was going to be a tough discussion, noting there are many areas in which the two do not agree, but finding common ground is a must.

"We both understand our shared responsibility to do things that strengthen the country every step of the way," he said.

Trudeau's meeting with Moe was the latest in a series of get-togethers with premiers as the prime minister seeks input and ideas on how his legislative agenda must adapt to face not just the reality of a minority government, but one divided very sharply on regional lines.

Moe showed up armed with demands: a one-year pause on the federal carbon tax in Saskatchewan, a reworked equalization formula and more overseas oil markets opened by completing pipelines beyond the Trans Mountain project.

But he received commitments on none of them, Moe said, and it's time for his province to find another path forward.

Saskatchewan will continue its court challenge to the federal carbon tax and increase outreach to global trading partners, Moe said.

"We are also going to look at opportunities to expand our provincial autonomy," he said, promising to expand on that in the coming days.

The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement late Tuesday that Trudeau highlighted to Moe other energy projects his government has supported. Those included the Keystone XL, Line 3, LNG Canada and the Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Line.

"Taken together, these projects demonstrate Ottawa's support of Canada’s energy industry," the statement said.

He also suggested that Moe, in his capacity as chairman of the Council of the Federation, work with the rest of the premiers to gain consensus on changes to the equalization formula.

"The prime minister reminded Premier Moe that the current Equalization formula is the same one that the previous federal government put in place with support of the federal cabinet ministers of the day," Trudeau's office said.

Scheer, who also represents a Saskatchewan riding, left his own meeting with Trudeau with a slightly more optimistic tone.

After their conversation, which lasted less than 30 minutes, he said common ground exists between him and Trudeau on items both promised during the election, including making maternal and parental benefits tax-free and funding public transit in Toronto. The introduction of a tax cut will be the Liberals' first order of business.

Scheer said he'll wait to see whether that agreement is reflected in the throne speech. A Commons vote to approve the speech as a general plan for governing is considered a measure of confidence. With a minority government, the opposition parties could easily trigger an election by voting to reject it.



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