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Premiers hold up moccasins gifted to them by indigenous elders during a meeting of premiers in Whitehorse on Thursday.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The elusive goal of interprovincial free trade remained just that Thursday afternoon as premiers struggled with "a small number" of unresolved issues.

"There are a small number of outstanding issues that are, by nature, very complex," Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said in Whitehorse where the leaders are gathered for their summer meeting.

"The toughest issues are always left for the end, so it's going to be requiring more work, but I'm not giving up on the possibility of a deal while we are here."

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Mr. Couillard said a deal could go forward without consensus on the movement of wine and beer, but that wouldn't serve interests of producers or consumers.

"For our citizens, it is something that is important," he said.

Alberta's Rachel Notley and Brad Wall of Saskatchewan met privately over Alberta's recent markup on beer, but deferred the issue to officials.

"We want these issues resolved while we are here," Mr. Couillard said, sounding less positive about the possibility than he had earlier in the day. "It would not be useful to come out of here with these issues not resolved."

The comments came at the end of a day which saw the provincial and territorial leaders take on everything from carbon pricing to legalizing marijuana to health-care funding.

Asked about recent comments from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the need for a national price on carbon, Saskatchewan's Brad Wall bristled at the fact Mr. Trudeau made his comments before a federal-provincial working group had a chance to report on it – although Mr. Trudeau said nothing about how that price would implemented.

"If that's to be a legitimate process, why then is the Prime Minister and the Environment Minister seemingly precluding the work of the committee?" he asked. "The Prime Minister's committed to a much more collaborative process with the provinces.

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"With the previous government, there wasn't much talk about working collaboratively so there were no surprises, but, frankly, I'm not sure which is better."

Several premiers said they want quick action from the federal government on the legalization of marijuana to prevent a patchwork of enforcement and distribution across the country.

"There's real concerns," Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said before heading into the meeting.

"It's one of the issues I want to raise today," he said. "I would hope we can develop a national approach, a co-operative approach."

British Columbia's Christy Clark echoed Pallister's worries around public health, safety and distribution.

"We need to see the federal legislation," she said. "We will build a system focused on safety."

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Wall said he's most concerned about consistent enforcement across Canada when it comes to marijuana use.

The premiers also discussed federal health-care funding, looking for Ottawa to increase it to 25 per cent. Some premiers were concerned about whether new money would come with strings attached.

"We know what to do, what we need is the means to do better," said Couillard. "At some point, we'll want to engage them in funding rather than on policy."

Others, less so.

"Money's money, at the end of the day," said Clark, who said she'd be prepared to consider targeted federal funds for services such as mental health.

The meeting is scheduled to wrap up Friday.

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