Western Premiers focus on Western and Northern Prosperity at their meeting in Yellowknife*

May 23, 2018

Western Premiers met today in Yellowknife to advance their shared priorities towards keeping western Canada economically competitive and increasing opportunities for long term positive growth for people and communities in all regions of Western and Northern Canada. They held productive discussions on a number of mutual priorities, including ongoing pan-Canadian pharmacare initiatives, the continued uncertainty around cannabis legalization timelines, and western and northern prosperity.


Western provinces and territories have a history of leadership in promoting affordability of pharmaceuticals for their citizens, for instance through the 2009 Western Premiers’ initiative on joint pharmaceutical purchasing.  Western Premiers agree on the need to continue work on new ways to increase access and lower the cost of drugs for Canadians.  They have agreed on four principles to guide discussions with the federal government regarding pharmacare:

  • Improving patient access should be the focus;
  • Development should be based on the best available evidence about potential benefits, risks, costs, and reliability of supply;
  • Provinces and territories must retain responsibility for the design and delivery of public drug coverage;
  • Additional federal funding must be long-term, adequate, secure and take into consideration inflationary pressure.


*The members of the Western Premiers’ Conference supporting this communique are: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut. While Alberta supports many of the general directions referenced in the communique, Alberta is currently focused on getting the Trans Mountain pipeline built for the benefit of the national economy, to defend the jobs of hundreds of thousands of working people across Canada, and to fund our common priorities.


Western Premiers also expressed concerns over the declining federal share of overall health funding and called on the federal government to meet with provinces and territories on appropriate long term arrangements. The health needs of Canadians are not well served when provincial and territorial governments do not receive fair and sustainable funding through the Canada Health Transfer. 


Provincial and territorial governments are undertaking much of the work associated with cannabis legalization, and are incurring significant costs as a direct result of the federal government’s decision.

Western provinces and territories continue to make substantial progress in developing cannabis distribution, retail and oversight mechanisms under very tight federal timelines. Western Premiers shared information on approaches in their respective jurisdictions and discussed common concerns and challenges.

Western Premiers are committed to ensuring effective cannabis legalization and implementation, but highlighted several outstanding concerns that need to be addressed by the federal government:

  • Provide specific details on the implementation timeframe between royal assent of The Cannabis Act and the start of public retail sales to support provincial and territorial planning;
  • Commit to fully addressing ongoing provincial and territorial resource requirement for drug-impaired driving enforcement, and expedite the approval of oral fluid screening devices to allow adequate time for procurement and training ahead of legalization;
  • Enhanced collaboration with provinces and territories on the cannabis seed-to-sale tracking system; and
  • Increase federal funding for nationally-aligned public education and awareness efforts, to reduce negative outcomes such as vehicle and equipment-related accidents and preventable health consequences particularly among young Canadians. This should also include ongoing and appropriate coordination and support for provinces and territories.

Western Premiers committed to continued information sharing and collaboration among their jurisdictions as legalization preparations continue and implementation begins.

Justice and Community Safety

Western provincial and territorial governments are undertaking meaningful work to address crime rates, especially as it relates to chronic offending and Indigenous over-representation. This includes problem‑solving and therapeutic courts and reintegration planning and restorative justice initiatives as models that contribute to community safety.

Western provinces and territories are committed to continue working together to exchange information and best practices, and called on the federal government to continue collaborations in coordination with provinces and territories towards improving the system.

Western and Northern Prosperity                                                                                                                

Premiers share interests in a number of areas that are particularly key to advancing the prosperity of western and northern residents and communities:

Canada-U.S. and International Trade

Premiers discussed the long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship between our jurisdictions and the United States (U.S.).  Open trade, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has had significant benefits for consumers and businesses in both the US and Canada. Premiers committed to continued provincial-territorial advocacy with US counterparts to ensure that these benefits are maintained and expanded.  This includes continuing to work closely with the federal government to ensure that their western Canadian interests are reflected in negotiations to modernize NAFTA.  Canada, the U.S. and Mexico must take the time necessary to ensure that a revised NAFTA works for all Parties.

Western Premiers emphasized the continued importance and value of provincial-territorial level advocacy with their U.S. counterparts.

Premiers also discussed efforts to resolve specific disputes that affect trade and investment in Canada and the U.S.   The Premiers voiced their ongoing support for NAFTA and World Trade Organization (WTO) litigation aimed at overturning punitive U.S. softwood lumber duties, as well as their support for efforts to ensure that Canada will be fully and permanently exempted from U.S. trade actions related to steel and aluminum.  They also discussed uranium and noted that any action by the U.S. to restrict access to Canadian uranium would be detrimental to U.S. interests.  Canada is a safe and stable supplier of uranium providing sustainable power to 1 in 19 U.S. households.

The Premiers also expressed particular concern over the impacts of the unfounded U.S. tariffs on Canadian uncoated groundwood paper (newsprint). 

The Premiers have sent a joint letter to Western Governors highlighting the significant job losses that these trade actions will lead to in Western states and encouraging Governors to continue their strong support for free trade at this critical time.

Western Premiers discussed the importance of continuing to grow and diversify Canada’s international trade.  In particular, they acknowledged the successful conclusion of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership in January 2018 and called for timely ratification by Canada and other partners. 


Premiers discussed the importance of continuing to work at home to strengthen internal trade, including reducing regulatory barriers, to ensure Canada remains competitive internationally.

Western Premiers discussed the importance of maintaining a competitive business and investment climate, noting the potential negative impact that US corporate tax cuts and U.S. industry regulatory changes are expected to have on the long-term competitiveness of Canada as a business and investment destination.  Premiers called on the federal government do its part to support provincial and territorial efforts to ensure that Canada remains an attractive and competitive destination for corporate investments which are integral to creating a prosperous economy and creating jobs. 

Market Access

Western Premiers reinforced the importance and urgency of moving Canada's resources to market in responsible, timely, predictable and sustainable ways that Canadians trust.  Energy projects contribute to long-term economic growth and job creation, and Premiers agreed that long term sustainable prosperity requires that all projects are undertaken with the highest regulatory standards for safety, human health and environmental protection. 

Premiers agreed that the development of infrastructure throughout Canada should continue to set global benchmarks for sustainability and allow all regions to develop natural resources in a sustainable and socially responsible manner.

Premiers agreed that the global investment community must be given the confidence to continue to see Canada as a safe and secure place to do business, where the rule of law is upheld and governments abide by regulatory and legal decisions. 

Premiers expressed serious concern about the rail backlogs and delays shippers are once again experiencing in getting their products to market.  They called on the federal government to swiftly implement Bill C-49 and its associated rail regulations.


Premiers acknowledged the federal government’s recent investments in infrastructure. Premiers encouraged continued discussion to ensure that investments respect specific provincial and territorial fiscal capacity and priorities, including the flexibility to address the unique challenges for rural, remote, and northern regions.

Premiers encouraged the federal government to continue to invest in nation-building projects to enhance transportation, communications, energy, and community infrastructure to assist in developing sustainable and diversified economies, lowering the cost of living and improving services for residents There is need for additional investment in ports, roads, highways, airports, bridges, broadband, and clean energy to strengthen our national transportation system, get our products to market, and enhance economic opportunities.

Premiers called for an equitable and cooperative approach to federal spending programs and noted that all jurisdictions should have access to federal funds, even when policy disputes exist.

Environmental Assessment

Premiers discussed Bill C-69, an Act to replace the National Energy Board Act with the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) with the Impact Assessment Act (IAA), and to amend the Navigation Protection Act.  Premiers are concerned that without additional detail, the Bill does not provide the required regulatory certainty that is needed to attract investment and improve competitiveness.

The expansion of scope and number and types of projects to be reviewed as proposed by the bill will impact timelines and could create redundancies with provincial review processes. Premiers discussed the potential for the new process to result in longer timelines for project approvals. Proponents and investors need predictable and competitive timelines up front in order to plan good projects that benefit Canadians and the Canadian economy.

Western Premiers noted that provinces and territories already have world-class environmental protection laws and review processes that balance the need for responsible resource development and environmental protection.    Premiers called on the federal government to fully engage with provinces and territories in the development of supporting regulations for Bill C-69 to ensure that new regulations do not create uncertainty, duplication, delays or additional roadblocks to the responsible development of Canada’s natural resources.

Media Inquiries Contact:

Charlotte Digness
Media and Communications Coordinator
Cabinet Communications and Protocol
Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs
Government of the Northwest Territories
Ph: (867) 767-9140 ext. 11092
Email: charlotte_digness@gov.nt.ca
Web: www.gov.nt.ca