2002 Western Premiers’ Conference


DAWSON CITY, June 6, 2002 - Premiers agreed on co-operative approaches to several issues today during discussions on agriculture, disaster financial assistance, climate change, infrastructure, trade and softwood lumber at the Western Premiers' Conference.

Progress report from WPC 2001:

Premiers noted that major progress has been made since last year's conference in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, in the areas of children's issues and health.

Health and Social Services ministers have continued implementation work on the Early Childhood Development Accord, which was agreed to at the September 2000 First Ministers' meeting. Arrangements are currently being finalized for the fall 2002 annual reports that will outline the progress all governments have made in the implementation of the Early Childhood Development initiative. Processes to support co-operation on research and knowledge related to early childhood development and the sharing of information on effective practices are also being established.

In February 2002, the federal government committed to developing a National Sex Offender Registry called for by western provinces at the 2001 Western Premiers' Conference. Ottawa has also passed legislation that will make internet luring a criminal offence and protect children from being exploited, as urged by Premiers at their last conference.

Western ministers have also expanded their efforts to create collaborative approaches to ongoing health renewal and innovation, as agreed to by Premiers at the January 2002 meeting.

An agreement with the federal government, negotiated by Alberta on behalf of the provinces and territories, establishes a federal/provincial/territorial dispute resolution mechanism to apply to disputes between governments regarding the interpretation of the Canada Health Act principles. A key feature of this mechanism is a meaningful role for independent third parties to provide advice and recommendations to the governments involved in a dispute, and agreement that these independent recommendations will be released publicly.

Western provinces were also successful in reaching a new inter-provincial operating and funding agreement for the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.


Premiers discussed their serious concerns over the recent U.S. Farm Bill and noted that it will be important to study the effect this Bill will have on both production levels and commodity prices. Premiers agreed that they would raise their concerns with state governors.

Premiers emphasized that Canadian producers can compete effectively against producers in other countries and would prosper in an environment free of international market distorting subsidies.

Premiers reviewed the status of federal-provincial discussions towards a new Agricultural Policy Framework and agreed that the federal government must provide adequate safety net funding and programming for all elements under the proposed new framework.

Premiers noted that the new policy framework will not address the immediate harm that is being caused by international trade distorting subsidies and trade barriers to grains, oilseeds, pulse crops, and livestock producers. Premiers emphasized that the federal government must assume full financial responsibility for the harm to Canadian producers caused by trade distorting practices and policies of the national governments of the United States and European Union.

Premiers called on the federal government to live up to its responsibilities by:

  • Providing a 100% federally funded annual trade injury payment to address the impact of trade-distorting practices until such time as these practices have been significantly reduced or eliminated;
  • Taking aggressive trade action at the World Trade Organization and under NAFTA to challenge the trade distorting elements of the U.S. Farm Bill that will both increase the level of subsidies and the range of products that are covered by these subsidies; and
  • Aggressively negotiating the elimination of trade and production distorting agricultural subsidies and trade barriers in international trade agreements.

Premiers stated that the country of origin labelling provision in the U.S. Farm Bill could adversely affect agricultural trade between Canada and the United States. For example, Premiers noted that Canada and the United States have a well established and integrated livestock market with feeder cattle moving regularly between Canada and the United States and that western states and provinces continue to cooperate effectively to ensure animal health and safety. Premiers agreed to pursue constructive solutions to their concerns in cooperation with their colleagues from the Western Governors' Association.

Disaster Financial Assistance

Premiers discussed the proposed federal amendments to the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements and reiterated their support for the existing cost-sharing formula and threshold. They directed their ministers responsible for disaster financial assistance to undertake an in-depth analysis of the potential impacts and implementation issues of the proposed amendments for their review by July 30, 2002.

Climate Change

Premiers unanimously expressed their commitment to address climate change and the need for Canadian governments to act together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Noted in the discussion was the fact that the impacts of climate change can be observed throughout western Canada, particularly in the North.

Premiers are taking action to reduce emissions and more initiatives are underway. They agreed that new and emerging energy sources and technologies would help to manage greenhouse gas emissions while increasing the potential for the expansion of new exports for Canadian energy. In particular, Premiers expressed the commitments of their governments to work with Canadians, industry and other governments to invest in research and technology and develop policies that will reduce emissions and enhance western Canada's ability to prosper in an environmentally sustainable and responsible manner.

Climate change is a complex global challenge and one in which Canada's actions must be assessed within a global context. In this regard, Premiers acknowledged the efforts of the federal government to advance international recognition for the global environmental benefits created by the export, specifically to the United States, of cleaner Canadian energy. Premiers noted the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol and the recent ratification by some other countries including Japan. Canada's action plan must take into account the positive actions we can take to reduce emissions while maintaining our prosperity - ensuring that we address the issues of international competitiveness and, in turn, the employment, economic growth, and investment opportunities in western Canada.

Provinces and territories need a clear understanding of the economic and fiscal implications of the Kyoto Protocol for their individual governments and for Canada and they must be fully involved in assessing the Protocol. The assessment should include not only the costs, burdens, and risks to governments and established industries but also the economic opportunities for existing and emerging industries. Western Premiers called for this work to be completed as soon as possible.

Premiers noted the recently released federal discussion paper and proposed consultations. Premiers urged the federal government to make the upcoming consultation process a truly national one. The consultation process should fully inform Canadians with a comprehensive discussion of all plans, strategies and ideas.

Premiers indicated that they will discuss the issue with other Premiers to further the development of a national approach on climate change. Premiers stated that this is one critically important issue that should be discussed at a First Ministers' Conference following the public consultation process and before reaching a decision on the ratification of the Kyoto Accord.


Western provinces and territories have consistently stated the need for increased federal investments in infrastructure to strengthen Western Canada's regional economies and quality of life. Premiers recognized that airports, highways and other transportation modes as well as water, sewage systems, and environmental and technological infrastructure are critically important to the west's competitiveness and prosperity.

Premiers agreed that the development of a national transportation blueprint is needed to guide transportation infrastructure decisions in the future. They also agreed that:

  • Appropriate consultation is needed prior to any changes to federal transportation policies or legislation;
  • Funding approaches for priority projects must make creative use of public/private sector partnerships; and
  • Programs that are funded primarily on a per capita basis serve little use in the vast expanses of the three territories and in many remote parts of the West.

They urged the federal government to ensure that the airline industry in Canada is competitive, serves the needs of Western Canada's regional economies and serves the travelling public. Premiers stressed the importance of having reliable air cargo services as they are critically important for sustaining social and economic development of rural communities. Airline restructuring and the new federal security charge are major concerns as well as they impact travellers, small air carriers, rural communities and tourism destinations.

Premiers said the federal funding currently being provided for highway infrastructure projects is a good start. A comprehensive plan is needed to meet the needs of Canadians. Premiers stated that they need to work jointly with the federal government in the identification of priority projects.

Premiers have been pressing the federal government for several years for a Canada-wide transportation strategy that would provide substantial, stable and long-term federal funding for transportation infrastructure. That funding is needed to preserve and improve existing transportation facilities, improve our country's productivity, and enhance the West's ability to compete in the global market place. Infrastructure must be developed to strengthen cross-border trade as it is critical to the economic activities of the West.


Premiers reiterated their commitment to the open and free flow of goods and services between Canada and the United States. They discussed a number of important bilateral trade issues such as softwood lumber and agriculture and agreed the federal government must respond to current trade distorting practices of the United States government by:

1. Working jointly with the U.S. government to ensure secure, fair and open access to each other's market;

2. Vigorously pursuing appeals through trade tribunals under the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement;

3. Reaching out to American legislators and the American people to let them know that these punitive duties hurt them directly; and

4. Taking responsibility for fully addressing the damage caused by punitive trade actions; and

5. Providing a 100% federally funded annual trade injury payment to address the impact of trade-distorting practices until such time as these practices have been significantly reduced or eliminated.

Premiers are united on how to address unfair trade practices and will be bringing their concerns directly to leaders of their neighbouring states. Premiers raised their concerns during their meeting with Western Governors. They will raise their concerns again at the Western Governors' Association meeting in Arizona in June at the Council of State Governments (West) meeting in Nevada in July and on every other occasion when they meet American legislators.

Western Finance Ministers' Report

Premiers received the Western Finance Ministers' Report, which they will be reviewing over the coming months.

Northern Economic Development

Premiers agreed to call on the federal government to provide funding for economic development programs for the territories, either through a new agency or through Western Economic Diversification Canada.


Premiers reiterated their consensus position regarding the need for increased and adequate federal funding to sustain Canada's health care systems. They noted that a significant federal revenue surplus, which in March stood at $9.8 billion, provides ample room for the federal government to help provinces and territories sustain health care services for Canadians. Premiers noted that their governments have all made presentations to the Romanow Commission outlining their visions for reform and renewal.

Premiers also reviewed the substantial progress that has been achieved on initiatives announced at the 2002 January Premiers' meeting on health. They took particular note of the following:

  • Common Review Process for New Drugs - In January, Premiers directed their Health Ministers to develop common recommendations for the approval of all new drugs by the end of August 2002 and to approve new drugs for coverage on a probationary basis subject to ongoing assessment of cost effectiveness. The Interim Common Drug Review was launched at the beginning of March. Work continues toward a permanent Common Drug Review Process.
  • Approval Process for Generic Drugs - Provinces and territories are continuing to collaborate to streamline and harmonize processes to evaluate and list generic drug products in drug benefit formularies for public drug benefit programs.
  • Sites of Excellence - Premiers agreed to share human resources and equipment for low-volume, high-cost medical procedures. Western provinces and territories are developing a Pediatric/Cardiac Surgery Network to refer appropriate surgery patients to centralized sites. A second Site, for Gamma Knife Neurosurgery, has been identified for Winnipeg. Implementation plans are underway, including Western and Pan Canadian referral agreements.
  • Health Care for Aboriginal Canadians - Several jurisdictions are involved in a project to look at the disparities in aboriginal health services and are reviewing the federal delivery of health services to aboriginal people. Premiers urged the federal government to fulfill its fiduciary obligation with regard to the provision of health services to all aboriginal people whether they live on or off reserve. The health status of aboriginal people across the country continues to lag behind that of non-aboriginal residents, which is unacceptable.
  • Premiers' Council on Health Awareness - The Council's aim is to improve Canadians' access to information and enhancing public awareness of the challenges and solutions for health care. Its office will be opening shortly in Ottawa.
  • Dispute Resolution Mechanism for Health - Premiers had asked Premier Klein to take the lead in working with the federal government to finalize, by April 30, 2002, a dispute resolution mechanism that provides for third-party mediation, recommendation and advice. The federal government has now agreed to a dispute resolution mechanism that is acceptable to provinces and territories. Premier Klein was thanked for his work on this issue.
  • Health Human Resources Database - The database is currently under development through the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI). It will allow provinces and territories to share information on human resource needs, training requirements and scope of practice to assure a sustainable supply of health professionals to maintain patient care.

Children and Youth

Premiers recognized that all western provinces and territories have taken significant steps towards enhancing and improving early childhood development. They agreed to build on the successes and best practices of the western provinces and territories and play a leadership role in the further enhancement of programs.

They acknowledged the success of the recent Prairie Northern Pacific Conference on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), held in the Yukon, and express ongoing commitment to addressing the serious and complicated issues related to FAS. Premiers called upon the federal government to become involved in the FAS partnership to support the important coordination role the partnership plays.

Premiers expressed concerns over the exclusion of the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut from federal funding targeted at Canada's aboriginal people in the areas of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Early Childhood Development. They called upon the federal government to make programming equitable and accessible to children in all provinces and territories, including aboriginal children living off-reserve.

They noted that all seven jurisdictions have either initiated or passed legislation for the reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders. Premiers also agreed on the importance of continuing to advance work on child protection, the National Sex Offender Registry, and strategies for dealing with internet luring.

Post-Secondary Education/Skills

Premiers agreed to continue to build and strengthen Canada's education, labour market training and skills development sectors. They noted that strong systems are critical to the well-being of Canadians and a vibrant economy.

Premiers discussed the longstanding work in each jurisdiction, which establishes milestones, goals and priorities in these sectors, and ongoing inter-jurisdictional work in online learning, student assistance and labour mobility, which supports these priorities.

Premiers indicated they would welcome discussions with the federal government on actions that support provincial priorities and programs. They suggested the federal government could:

  • Enhance the Canada Health and Social Transfer and Labour Market Development Agreement funding;
  • Continue joint federal/provincial/territorial work on student financial assistance;
  • Invest in broadband communications infrastructure and connectivity for online learning;
  • Demonstrate flexibility with provinces seeking new or restructured labour market development agreements; and
  • Enhance opportunities for labour market training, education, and post-secondary education among aboriginal people, in ways which complement existing provincial programs and priorities.


For information, contact:

Andrea Buckley, Director of Communications
Executive Council Office
Government of Yukon
Tel.: (867) 667-5270
E-mail: andrea.buckley@gov.yk.ca