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Premiers' demands on environment bills an 'unhelpful' threat to unity: Morneau

Federal Minister of Finance Bill Morneau speaks during a news conference in Vancouver, on Thursday June 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals say it’s conservative premiers who are putting Canada  at risk in a fight over oil and the environment.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says in a letter to six right-leaning premiers Friday it’s “unhelpful to threaten national unity” if their demands to change two bills on the verge of being passed in Parliament aren’t met.

The premiers of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories wrote to the prime minister Monday urging him to amend or abandon bills restricting tanker traffic on part of B.C.’s coast and overhauling the federal environmental-assessment system for major construction projects.

The premiers said changes to the bills are needed to “avoid further alienating provinces” and “focus on uniting the country.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the premiers of playing games with national unity to pursue their policy goals.

The written response from Morneau says the changes the premiers want would compromise Canadians’ health and jobs, infringe Indigenous people’s rights and harm endangered species.

The Canadian Press