Meili and Moe tangle on national unity issues

Earlier this week, Premier Scott Moe chaired the Council of Federation, a meeting of Canada’s 13 premiers that happened earlier this week in Toronto.

On Tuesday, Moe was back in the legislature, where he faced a grilling in Question Period from opposition leader Ryan Meili, who proceeded to accuse Moe of flirting with western separatism. The exchange between the two is below, from Hansard.

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Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Access to international markets and a stable democracy are absolutely key to Western Canada’s economy. This last week, Calgary lost a chance to attract a major tech company to that city because of concerns about the Wexit movement. This western separatist movement damages our international reputation, endangering our ability to attract investment and to access international markets at a time when that’s so important, at a time when producers are receiving low prices for canola because of lack of access to international markets.

Mr. Speaker, why did the Premier flirt with this dangerous and foolish idea of western separatism? Why did it take him an entire month to come to the obvious conclusion that there is no opportunity, at this or at any point, for Saskatchewan in breaking up Canada?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, just home early this morning actually. I was very pleased to chair a meeting of Canada’s 13 premiers, Mr. Speaker, chair an unprecedented meeting where Canada’s 13 premiers came together to come to consensus on a number of points, Mr. Speaker, a number of points including the economic competitiveness of our nation. That includes the economic competitiveness of the industries that are operating and creating wealth in this province — industries like the energy industry, industries like the mining industry, our agriculture industry, our manufacturing industry — to ensure that we continue to attract investment into our communities, attract investment into our communities to provide jobs, Mr. Speaker, not only for the people that are living in those communities today but to provide jobs for people that want to live in those communities into the future as we grow those communities, Mr. Speaker.

I was proud to chair that meeting, an unprecedented meeting where all premiers came together, not just on behalf of the people in their respective jurisdictions, but on behalf of all Canadians in general.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the response, I can’t call it an answer, the Premier failed to explain why he spent an entire month adding fuel to the fire of the foolish and dangerous notion of splitting Saskatchewan away from Canada.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, I will always stand up for the people in the interests of the province of Saskatchewan within our great nation, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that we can continue to attract investment into our communities, to ensure that we can advocate for our markets that we so much need, Mr. Speaker, around the world, now selling goods into 150 countries around the world. That’s why we are opening up international trade offices, so that we can continue to preserve our market access in the agriculture industry, Mr. Speaker, in the mining industry. Mr. Speaker, I will always stand up for each and every person in the province of Saskatchewan.

And I’d ask the member opposite why he spent two weeks in here, Mr. Speaker, saying why he wouldn’t stand up for the people and go to a rally across this town just last year, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition. Supports for Farmers

Mr. Meili: —Mr. Speaker, it’s shocking to hear a Premier who will only speak up for Canadian unity when absolutely pressed. This is not a priority for him at all, Mr. Speaker. It’s embarrassing, Mr. Speaker. And you know what, Mr. Speaker? Last week I had a chance to visit with farmers in Lipton and area who’ve had a very difficult harvest — 30 to 40 per cent of the crop still in the field after a very wet fall and summer.

It was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking to see field after field of swath still under snow, knowing the extreme stress that that puts on farm families, Mr. Speaker. The RM of Lipton, in a letter sent to the Premier along with the Minister of Agriculture and myself, they have declared their municipality an agriculture disaster area. They’ve got no answer from the Premier, no answer from this government, so today they’re here asking for help from provincial and federal leaders.

The Premier has tools available to him today to help farmers in this region. He could start by requesting that an assessment of a disaster event be initiated which could lead to farmers receiving support under the federal AgriRecovery program.

So my question to the Premier: will he show his support for farmers in the Lipton and Kellross area? Will he initiate the process to get AgriRecovery available for those farmers?

Instead of the Premier, it was Agriculture minister Dave Marit who rose to respond on this question.

Hon. Mr. Marit: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the member opposite for the question. As a farmer myself, I obviously understand what farmers are going through this fall, as we did the same on our farm and as many farmers are in this province, a fall that we’ve never experienced before, Mr. Speaker. There is still an estimated two and a half million acres unharvested throughout the province, Mr. Speaker, and I know in some parts of the province harvest is still going on.

Mr. Speaker, I’m very confident in the programs we have in place. We have the best crop insurance program that this province has ever seen. We’ve almost doubled the per-acre coverage that was under the former government, Mr. Speaker, and we have AgriStability there to address the concerns as well.

I know there’s a lot of farmers who are under stress this year, Mr. Speaker. I encourage them to reach out to the Farm Stress Line. There’s always somebody that’s willing to listen, Mr. Speaker. As I said, crop insurance is there that not only looks at yield loss but also looks at quality loss too, Mr. Speaker. So it’s important that the farmers engage with Crop Insurance and have that discussion with those. This government will always support farmers in Saskatchewan, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Premier couldn’t stand up for Canadian unity. He couldn’t stand up and answer a clear question on AgriRecovery, straightforward question. The minister didn’t have an answer for us either, Mr. Speaker. That’s extremely, extremely disappointing… .

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