Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter (L), speaks with Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger (M), Quebec Premier Jean Charest (R) follows, as the premiers break for lunch in Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 26, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/ADAM SCOTTI
OTTAWA - Canada's premiers are urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to sit down and talk economy with them this fall.
The 13 premiers and territorial leaders made an "urgent" request for Harper to attend the next first ministers' meeting in November.
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter extended the invitation to Harper to help the provinces and feds work together to find new strategies to deal with the shifting and troubled global economy.
"We don't believe meeting with the premiers is an optional thing to do," he told reporters covering the premiers' annual summit, taking place in Halifax this week.
"It's part of the job you have when you're prime minister."
Quebec Premier Jean Charest agreed, saying the political leaders need to "sit down rapidly and take stock of what's happening," adding that Ottawa has taken an unprecedented arm's-length approach to federal-provincial relations.
"This is a period of unilateralism on the federal government's part," he said.
The prime minister hasn't attended such a meeting since 2009 - and it doesn't look like Harper is keen to break that trend.
When asked whether Harper would attend, his spokesman Andrew MacDougall replied "the prime minister has had many productive discussions on the economy with his provincial counterparts and will surely have many more over the months to come.
"The federal government will continue working with each province to assure Canada's long-term prosperity."
Premiers also spent Thursday stepping carefully around the brewing dispute between Alberta and B.C. over iolsands pipelines and their economic spoils - but they won't be able to avoid the topic of energy Friday.
The national energy strategy - an idea championed by Alberta Premier Alison Redford - tops the agenda.
Earlier this week, the B.C. Liberals laid out five requirements that needed to be met before the province would back the $5.5 billion project that would carry Alberta crude to Kitimat, B.C., and then to Asian markets.
The demands included beefed up environmental oil spill safeguards and a greater share of the economic spinoffs of the projects estimated to bring in $81 billion in tax revenues over 30 years - and came with a threat to kill the project if those demands weren't met.