First ministers' meeting likely to be most fractious, least productive for PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the first session of the first ministers meeting flanked by Ontario Premier Doug Ford intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Le Blanc and Quebec Premier Francois Legault in Montreal on Friday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the first session of the first ministers meeting flanked by Ontario Premier Doug Ford intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Le Blanc and Quebec Premier Francois Legault in Montreal on Friday

After days of speculation and predictions of the most acrimonious meeting in years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's fourth annual gathering with all provincial and territorial premiers came off without any major hitches - or major results.

Sparks did fly between Ford and Trudeau over the issue of carbon taxes with Trudeau reportedly telling the Ontario premier that if Ontario residents didn't pay more through a carbon tax then the oil sands would have to shut down.

And when he met Trudeau in person at a downtown hotel for a preliminary meeting Thursday, Ford went right at him. "The goalposts got changed", he said.

"I'll tell you what matters to the people of Ontario is the job-killing carbon tax".

It appears Trudeau had managed to smooth things over somewhat with a pleasant dinner with the premiers at a Montreal restaurant Thursday night.

But it's also nothing new from Quebec, and Notley is not the first Alberta premier unable to penetrate faulty logic from leaders of that province.

Her comments reflect the main beef of some premiers who arrived saying the agenda for the meeting with Trudeau was too tilted to the needs of Ottawa, while they want to talk about the carbon tax and a rescue for the oil industry.

Ford said he was looking forward to Friday's meeting but, after his tete-a-tete with Trudeau, he refused to answer reporters' questions about whether walking away from the table is still an option.

Ford said Ontario is already on its way to meeting the agreed to carbon dioxide emissions reduction of 30% below 2005 levels, the province already reducing emissions by 22%.

Alberta premier announces the province is cutting oil production
Alberta premier announces the province is cutting oil production

Ford later sat down with two of his conservative, anti-carbon tax allies - Saskatchewan's Scott Moe and New Brunswick's Blaine Higgs.

Ford's team has been at the centre of complaints about Trudeau's agenda and demands that it be expanded to include a host of provincial concerns.

"Today the premiers and I will talk about how we can best support Canadians working in sectors that are now facing significant challenges", Trudeau said, "whether they're oil and gas workers in Alberta hit hard by the price differential or GM workers in Oshawa".

At least that's how I suspect Notley was feeling this week while travelling to another first ministers conference in Montreal where she is facing a political landscape turned upside down.

"There is really no province in the country that doesn't owe Alberta to some degree for their schools, their hospitals, their roads".

"This just makes it more hard", Ford said of attracting new business investment to replace jobs like the ones recently lost at General Motors.

"As first ministers we have all been very politely sitting around and admiring the problem and (now it is) time for us to stop doing that and take action". "We're all capable of reading their press releases".

The meeting also saw headway made on Bill C-69. Critics, including Moe, maintain the bill would create regulatory hurdles that will scare off investment in energy projects, particularly pipelines.

"It's not my interpretation", McNeil said when asked if the prime minister had changed expectations. "Unfortunately, a lot of those common interests didn't show up on the agenda".

Talks between Yemen war rivals 'difficult but critical'
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