Premier Wynne goes to Ottawa, looking for the PM – – by Martin Regg Cohn (Toronto Star – November 24, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Does Ontario’s premier merit a meeting with the prime minister — or even a reply from his correspondence unit?

Last summer, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made time for Rob Ford on short notice. At a photo-op, he promised the mayor a big fat federal cheque bankrolling an unneeded subway through Scarborough’s low-density corridor.

Federal finance minister (and Ford family friend) Jim Flaherty followed up with $660 million in taxpayers’ money that same week — money down the drain for their gravy train. It’s never a problem getting federal funding or face time for Ford because, as our mayor still boasts, he heads Canada’s sixth-largest government.

But what of Canada’s second-largest government at Queen’s Park? Does Ontario’s premier merit a meeting with the prime minister — or a reply from his correspondence unit? We shall soon see Harper’s political calculus. On Dec. 5th, Ms. Wynne goes to Ottawa. And tries to see the prime minister.

Will Harper, who huddles on demand with Ford, find time to fit her in?

It’s hard to fathom the PM refusing to receive the premier. After all, he saw her earlier this year (the PM insisted on secrecy), and she is complying with his standard condition — that there be a substantive agenda. Ontario’s premier has already laid one out, with two main points:

First, long term pension reforms. Second, long term funding for the Ring of Fire in the province’s Far North.

Fresh from hosting a meeting of her fellow premiers in Toronto this month, Wynne wants to sell Harper on a badly-needed upgrade to the Canada Pension Plan. The issue has remained below the radar for the last few years as Flaherty shot down one proposal after another.

Meeting amongst themselves in Toronto this month, provincial finance ministers agreed in principle to modest reforms. But they must now get Flaherty onside at a scheduled federal-provincial conference at Meech Lake next month, and Wynne wants to set the table first.

Meech Lake holds potential for a historic breakthrough — if only Flaherty displays the same kind of pan-Canadian leadership he has shown in trying to achieve a common securities regulator. Or we could once again lose the chance for CPP reforms — more slithering amid dithering.

On the Ring of Fire, Wynne is seeking federal help after firing off a letter to the PM two weeks ago. The enormous mineral find, more than 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, is worth an estimated $60 billion to the economy. And it is in a stall.

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