WINNIPEG -- Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the reopening of borders is “inseparably linked” with vaccination uptake.

Pallister was asked about interprovincial travel at the conclusion of the virtual Western Premiers’ Conference on Tuesday.

“Any discussion around reduction of border barriers has to also recognize the reality of the vaccine as the way out of this mess,” Pallister said.

Pallister said they didn’t have a lot of discussion surrounding vaccine cards for interprovincial travel, noting different provinces are at different levels of conversation of whether or not it would be a useful tool.

“The ultimate goal is, of course, to have no barriers as we once enjoyed without thinking about it,” Pallister said. “We can’t get there unless we have uptake on vaccine.”

Health care and mental health were among the topics of discussion at the virtual meeting.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said COVID-19 has shown the limitations of the health care system --- both fiscally and with regards to human resources. The premiers are calling for reoccurring funding through the Canadian health care transfer.

After 16 months of lockdowns and the anticipated long-term effects, the premiers said they’ll need dedicated programs, services and funding to help address mental health and addictions issues.

They also discussed post-pandemic economic recovery, climate change, and infrastructure during the meeting.

Pallister spoke about the value of developing resources --- notably hydroelectricity --- and stressed the importance of getting more goods to market.

“Whether it’s hydroelectric or other products, we’re ready to do go,” Pallister said, adding a focus on transportation of these products is vital.

Pallister also mentioned the need for partnerships in projects like the Lake Manitoba-Lake St. Martin outlet channel to prevent flooding.

“This is where work with the federal government is vitally important in order to help facilitate the development of certain projects,” Pallister said.

Pallister said these types of projects will help create jobs post-pandemic and the opportunity to create more wealth.

The premiers also addressed the need to do better for Indigenous and Muslim committees, stating, “hate has no place in Canada.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Ontario government announced $10 million to search former residential school sites for unmarked graves.

When asked if Manitoba will announce similar funding, Pallister said the province is already partnering with the federal government and First Nations communities on a number of projects.

“The real history and the real reality of our country needs to be looked at, scars and all, and it needs to be looked at together in a spirit of partnership,” Pallister said. “This is how we built this country, but we didn’t build it perfectly and we need to acknowledge that.”