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Saskatchewan says no summit necessary with Alberta over licence plate dispute

Last Updated Mar 20, 2018 at 10:20 pm EDT

Deron Bilous is sworn in as the Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs, Service Alberta in Edmonton on May 24, 2015. askatchewan's minister of trade says there is no need to meet with Alberta officials to discuss a short-lived ban on Alberta licence plates on government construction projects. Alberta Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous says the two provinces will continue working to reduce trade barriers and focus on the expansion of the pipeline. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

REGINA – Saskatchewan’s minister of trade says there is no need to meet with Alberta officials to discuss a short-lived ban on Alberta licence plates on government construction projects.

Jeremy Harrison says the issue has been dealt with.

“A meeting as far as a get together in Lloydminster or Medicine Hat or wherever, it’s not necessary at this point,” Harrison said on Tuesday.

“We’ll work together directly through the phone or mechanisms or where we see each other bilaterally since we go to a lot of events that we are at the same place at.”

The Saskatchewan government announced the ban in December which it said was in response to similar restrictions facing Saskatchewan workers on Alberta job sites.

Alberta filed a legal challenge and the policy was reversed in January before the two provinces were due to meet to discuss the issue.

Harrison said getting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which would increase the flow of Alberta crude from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., is the shared priority between the two provinces.

“We’ve indicated our support for potential measures that would be taken by the government of Alberta on that front,” Harrison said.

In Edmonton, Alberta Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said the two provinces will continue working to reduce trade barriers and focus on the expansion of the pipeline.

“Alberta has a history of working very well with Saskatchewan,” Bilous said.

“There is an acknowledgment that the No. 1 priority right now is the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Premier Moe has come out in support of Premier Notley and our government’s position — and so that is our No. 1 focus.”

Despite the trade meeting being called off, Harrison said the two provinces still share “pretty strong difference of view” on the Alberta beer incentive, a program that includes grants to small brewers in the province.

When Saskatchewan imposed the ban Dec. 6, it was not about beer but workplace fairness.

Saskatchewan officials at that time said the licence plate ban was in response to similar restrictions facing Saskatchewan workers on Alberta job sites.

Alberta said that was not true and that former Saskatchewan trade minister Steven Bonk never provided evidence to back up the claim.

As the war of words escalated, former premier Brad Wall stepped in and said the plate ban was in response to anti-free-trade initiatives by Alberta, including the beer dispute.

Alberta then filed a legal challenge under the New West deal.

— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton. Follow @RyanBMcKenna on Twitter.