Premiers strike deal to allow increased flow of beer, alcohol across borders
The deal sets new personal limits for alcohol and beer in New Brunswick, some provinces have no limits
ST. ANDREWS, N.B. – Canada’s premiers are set to wrap up their two-day meeting in New Brunswick with a deal that will effectively double the amount of beer and alcohol that can be taken across provincial and territorial borders.
A source familiar with the negotiations confirmed Friday that a deal was struck late Thursday.
“They worked hard and they got all of the jurisdictions (to come) around,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There was some reluctance on some parts…but I think everybody in good faith worked it out.”
The deal will see a large increase in the personal limits for alcohol and beer in provinces such as New Brunswick, while others like Alberta and Manitoba currently have no limits.
The source said the final communique will also include agreements in agriculture, transportation and occupational health and safety.
Eight premiers met for breakfast Friday to discuss universal pharmacare with former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins, who chairs the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare.
Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, was also in the meeting and said she is encouraged there is support from the provinces after they came out last year in favour of a national plan.
“They are all in support of reforming our system, they see it in their budgets,” said Silas. “They want to know who is going to pay for the transformation because there will be initial costs, and also how will the pie be divided after that.”
Hoskins, who quit his cabinet post in February to take on the federal appointment, said it’s still early days as the advisory council carries out consultations across the country.
He said consensus will have to be built, but was optimistic that something can be done, pointing out that about 10 per cent of Canadians are unable to afford their drugs.
“We are not yet at the stage where we’ve established what the best cost-sharing mechanism might be, let alone the model itself,” he cautioned.
Hoskins said there are more than 100 different public plans across the country and in excess of 500,000 private plans.
“We pay between 30 and 40 per cent higher than the other similar industrialized countries pay for their medications,” he said. “Part of the reason is that we have such a diverse number of purchasers.”
Hoskins said he has already heard from provincial and territorial health ministers over the last couple of months that they want Ottawa to respect the fact that they deliver the programs.
“They also reinforced that what we ultimately arrive at needs to enhance access…and then the third issue that was brought up consistently was on costing and cost sharing. It’s very important to provinces and territories that the federal commitment is there, that it’s substantial.”
The parliamentary budget office pegs the total cost of pharmacare at about $20 billion and says about $4 billion in cost savings can be realized with a national plan.
“The parliamentary budget office has indicated that we could spend considerably less if we were to make certain changes and find efficiencies for example in bulk purchasing and other areas,” said Hoskins.
Meetings in the scenic seaside town of St. Andrews on Thursday focused on trade issues, although the talks were upstaged by Ontario Premier Doug Ford who announced that his province will intervene in Saskatchewan’s court challenge of Ottawa’s carbon tax plan.
New federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc chose to put an optimistic face on the developments, saying the Liberal government remains committed to working collaboratively with the provinces to deal with the challenge that climate change represents because it’s part of growing the economy responsibly.
Ford also later joined Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister in calling for more help from the federal government in dealing with asylum seekers who cross their borders.
All three premiers want Ottawa to review its current policy, and they also called for full compensation for the “impacts to services resulting from the increase in non-point of entry border crossings.”