The Atlantic Loop. Graphic: Emera

Premier Tim Houston had his first meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today. While the Prime Minister made no specific financial commitments, Nova Scotia’s Premier says he believes “we are on the same page on a number of issues.”

Houston said “a big, big part” of whether the province will be able to shutter its coal-fired electricity plants by 2030 depends on Ottawa agreeing to contribute $5 billion towards the Atlantic Loop. That transmission project involves building new overhead power lines between Quebec and New Brunswick and upgrading another line at the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border to deliver renewable energy from Hydro Quebec into the Maritimes.

“I didn’t expect him to pull out his chequebook at our meeting,” Houston told journalists at a briefing afterward. “But I feel we are on the same page. There are things to be worked out but the prime minister’s team knows what needs to be done and at the highest level, there is agreement on what needs to be done.”

Houston said 55% of the cost of eliminating coal-fired emissions in Canada is tied to coal plants in Nova Scotia and the public here can’t shoulder the transition because it has already contributed billions of dollars to move to greener forms of energy over the past decade.

On the topic of health care, Houston said he made a specific ask of the federal government to provide $70 million over the next three years. That money would be used to stand up 16 clinics to assist people struggling with mental health issues and addictions. Houston said the pilot project would have a focus on youth.

Houston promised universal mental health care during the summer provincial election campaign. Since then, three of four health regions across the province have had to postpone or ration surgical procedures because they either don’t have the beds or the staff available. Cancer operations and emergency care are not affected but most other surgical procedures are being re-evaluated on a daily basis.

Houston said he was “encouraged” by his first meeting with Trudeau.

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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