Given that the meeting is only two and a half hours probably Stelmach is simply missing a photo op and little of substance, simply a show of concern for the economy. Also, he probably had the trip to Europe already arranged and is no doubt a bit miffed that Harper went ahead and called the meeting without checking to see if it were convenient for him to attend.
Alta. premier to skip first ministers' meeting
Trish Audette , Canwest News ServicePublished: Monday, November 03, 2008
EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is skipping national economic discussions in Ottawa next week in favour of going to Europe on a trade mission.
Stelmach explained Monday that his presence at the first ministers' meeting, hosted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is unnecessary.
"We are at the table simply because Alberta's economy is holding together the Canadian economy," he said Monday.
A spokesman said Alerbta Premier Ed Stelmach will be in Europe next week during the scheduled First Ministers' Conference. A proxy will be sent on the premier's behalf, he added.
Grant Black/Calgary Herald
"That's a very clear message."
Stelmach's spokesman, Tom Olsen, said a to-be-determined cabinet minister will be sent to Ottawa on the premier's behalf.
"We understand it's about 2 1/2 hours, something like that," the spokesman said of the meeting, which he described as a lunch discussion.
"We expect a fuller meeting in the new year."
Stelmach is scheduled to do business in London, Germany and the Netherlands.
"It's paramount for Alberta and for Canada that we continue to speak to potential investors in the oilsands in other countries," the premier said.
"We are the engine of the Canadian economy and we have to reassure investors in Germany, the Netherlands and in England that we are a good place to invest."
Stelmach said the trade mission is an example of how Alberta continues to pull its weight as one of the few "have" provinces in Canada.
On Monday, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a $347-million equalization package for Ontario, putting the country's largest province in the "have-not" category for the first time in its history.
"B.C. and Alberta are the two strongest economies, with Saskatchewan of course," Stelmach said.
"That just shows you how quickly the picture has changed in this country."
But learning Stelmach plans to skip next Monday's meeting, both of Alberta's opposition leaders charged the premier is keeping his head in the sand when it comes to prioritizing economic to-do lists.
"Everybody understands this is the biggest crisis to hit international financial markets probably since the 1930s," said Opposition Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, who accused Stelmach of simply walking away from the issue.
"He could find a day or two from his European trip to go to the first ministers' conference. That's his priority or at least it ought to be his priority, that's his job and he should be doing it."
Opposition NDP Leader Brian Mason, meanwhile, said the length of Harper's planned meeting makes no difference to its importance.
"I think if the premier believes that Alberta is immune to the recession that is on the horizon, he's got his head in the sand," Mason said.
"I'm just very afraid that given the last few years of prosperity and overheated economy, this government has forgotten what a recession in Alberta looks like."