Alberta and Saskatchewan have a date for a meeting to discuss their trade issues, but Alberta says it will come too late to resolve a standoff over licence plates.
Alberta Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous says Saskatchewan has agreed to meet on Jan. 31 – more than a week after a Jan. 22 deadline for Saskatchewan to reverse its ban on Alberta licence plates at its job sites.
Bilous says the two sides had agreed to meet in Lloydminster because that is the community which will be affected the most, but the Saskatchewan government wants the get-together to be held in Medicine Hat, which is something Bilous has refused.
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If not, Bilous said, a panel under the New West trade partnership takes over the dispute and can’t be stopped until it makes a ruling that could cost Saskatchewan up to $5-million in penalties.
Alberta filed the legal challenge under the partnership last month. The province argued the plate ban clearly violates free-trade rules agreed to by the four western provinces.
Bilous said Saskatchewan also wants the meeting’s location changed from the previously agreed-upon boundary city of Lloydminster to Medicine Hat in southern Alberta, which is closer to Regina.
Bilous said Alberta is insisting on Lloydminster so politicians can hear from workers in that region directly affected by the higher costs of transferring over to Saskatchewan plates and registration.
Bilous says it is an issue Premier Brad Wall needs to “smarten up” on and rescind.
The Saskatchewan government, responding in a statement, said: “Three Saskatchewan ministers involved in trade and construction are planning to meet with their Alberta counterparts on Jan. 31.”