Atlantic premiers take stage at Liberal convention in Halifax

CTV Atlantic

Published Saturday, April 21, 2018 5:33PM ADT

Last Updated Saturday, April 21, 2018 7:07PM ADT

The four Atlantic premiers took the stage at the Liberal’s national convention to discuss cooperation among provinces to strengthen the East Coast.

Framed by pictures of Hopewell Rocks and Peggy’s Cove, each spoke of their province’s part in working together Saturday in Halifax.

“We’re genuinely friends,” said Newfoundland Premier Dwight Ball.

In front of hundreds of liberals, the premiers were asked what they felt is the biggest challenge to overcome in the Atlantic region.

“Workforce and housing,” said P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan. “It’s to have the workforce for the 21st century.”

“We believe that growing the population is one of the most important things that we can do to ensure we have a good strong workforce for the businesses that are starting up and growing,” said New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant.

“Access to good broadband, functional broadband too, is really fundamental in everything we do to advance the economy,” said Ball.

“I think the single issue is population, we need to grow the population in Atlantic Canada,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.

When speaking to reporters – the conversation turned to the barriers that exist between provinces. The conversation was sparked by this week’s decision from the Supreme Court regarding the cross border beer case.

“I believe we all want to see free trade happen in our country for smaller provinces like us here in Atlantic Canada it certainly allows us to get our products and services to markets that are larger than us across the country, so it definitely is in the best interest of Atlantic Canadians that we have free trade in this country,” said Gallant.

Brian Gallant – premier of the province where the beer debate began – says he doesn’t believe the conversation ends with the court’s decision.

He says they need to look into a working group on beer and alcohol to break down some of the barriers.

The discussion also resonates in Alberta and British Columbia – where, not beer, but a pipeline is the centre of a trade war between provinces.

“In my view – we should have pipelines from coast to coast and I would argue at this moment in time – where we’re having an issue about bringing oil, we have a pipeline that we should be more aggressively using to bring natural gas, indigenous natural gas from Canada, Western Canada into Atlantic Canada,” said McNeil.

While the 2019 federal election was top of mind for most at the convention,  the New Brunswick and P.E.I. provincial elections start before the country heads to the polls.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown

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