Stewart says Sask wants same deal with Quebec, ‘will do what we can’

MLA Lyle Stewart and former Saskatchewan MLA Allan Kerpan hold “in-house” Confederate autonomy meetings in the province.

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When Allan Kerpan met Prime Minister Scott Moe in his office last fall to discuss provincial autonomy, he said he looked into the Prime Minister’s eyes and knew he was determined to take on Ottawa.

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That meeting would later be the start of a summer tour of the province in Sask. The party’s constituencies, with Kerpan and MLA Lyle Stewart at the helm.

“We (Moe and Kerpan) both agreed that maybe it would be a good thing to go out and hear what the people in this province are saying and thinking about autonomy. Period,” Kerpan recalled in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve been waiting for 30 years for someone who has the courage, vision and determination to take this on. Call it a fight, if you will. And that’s what we have with our prime minister.”

After their discussion, Moe ordered Kerpan and Stewart to hold meetings about what they believe has become an intrusive federal government.

In an interview on Wednesday, Stewart said he believes Ottawa is invading on a number of fronts, including the carbon tax, clean fuel regulations, Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, emissions caps and reductions, plans for net zero by 2030 and the tanker ban on the west coast.

“Our economy can’t survive and we want to know what people think we should do,” said Stewart, who is the county secretary responsible for provincial autonomy.

Stewart and Kerpan tour 10 Sask. Party constituencies as part of this outreach. They’ve been to Estevan and Saskatoon. Other stops include Cypress Hills, Weyburn, Cannington, Carrot River, Meadow Lake, Yorkton and the Regina area.

They plan to provide Moe with a report on their findings in the fall.

Stewart said they’ve discussed the idea of ​​letting Saskatchewan collect its own income tax, similar to Quebec.

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The concept could give the province more influence over Ottawa. It was part of the UCP leadership debate in Alberta, where candidate Danielle Smith has discussed a sovereignty bill that aims to deny federal decisions.

Stewart said the county will do “everything” to deal with the intrusion of Ottawa, though he acknowledged that some existing laws could stand in the way.

“We want the same deal Quebec has in confederation,” he said. “I don’t blame Quebec for having it and I don’t blame them if they unilaterally open the constitution and take more rights. But it is only fair that we all get the same chance.”

When asked how the wider public could be involved in the meetings, he said they are keeping them “in house”, but added that further broad consultations may be underway. Kerpan said people should contact their MLAs if they want to participate.

Kerpan, a former member of the Saskatchewan Party MLA and Reform MP, is not paid for his participation, but the government caucus office covers the associated costs, such as mileage.

Stewart said the constituencies that host the rallies fund them.

Although Kerpan was previously associated with the Wexit movement, which advocated Western independence, he has said he is “definitely not” in favor of Western separation. He also said he was no longer involved with the Maverick Party.

Stewart said the autonomy talks are not a step toward divorce.

“We are trying to get the country’s constitution to represent everyone,” he said.

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While Moe believes the federal government’s policies have been invasive, some have argued that Ottawa is supporting the province, whether that’s funding for housing projects, health transfers or an abandoned oil well cleanup program.

When asked about these criticisms, Stewart said that while Ottawa is legally required to support health care, the federal government has stopped supporting “other things.”

“We don’t have any power in this deal,” he said. “We need to have more power to regulate and govern ourselves.”

In an emailed statement, a spokesman for the federal minister of Intergovernmental Affairs said the government will continue to work with the province on shared priorities.

“We remain focused on growing our economy, making life more affordable and fighting climate change for the people of Saskatchewan and all Canadians,” it said.

Newly elected provincial NDP leader Carla Beck has criticized the Moe government for its approach to dealing with the federal government.

Beck said earlier this week that while she understands frustrations, this approach is not working well for the county. As for Stewart’s tour, the NDP did not comment on the Leader-Post deadline.

Stewart said the government has tried to negotiate but had little success.

“You cannot negotiate with the federal government according to the rules under which we operate; they tell you what the rule is,” he said. “And that’s why, of course, you object to it, and sometimes we sue them.”

jsimes@postmedia.com

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