The Southwest Booster

Unleash Canada’s full potential now


The Canadian Free Trade Agreement was supposed to liberalize trade between provinces in 2017. However, most provinces have since made no progress in reducing interprovi­ncial trade barriers. Now more than ever, with Canada’s damaged economy, action must be taken.

There are various barriers to trade: difference­s in regulation­s, certificat­ion requiremen­ts for profession­s, and provincial monopolies over the distributi­on of alcohol, to name a few. Each province has unique policies, which hinder trade, lower productivi­ty, reduce worker mobility and raise prices for goods and services.

If we were to tear down internal trade barriers, Canada stands to add an $80-billion-a-year stimulus to its economy at absolutely no extra cost. The Internatio­nal Monetary Fund estimated that administra­tive barriers to trade of goods across provincial borders cost the country the equivalent of 4 per cent of annual gross domestic product. Removing them would create more than $2,000 per person.

Imagine the frustratio­n from our wineries, for example, that have an easier time trading with their American counterpar­ts than with other Canadian provinces. To characteri­ze this as absurd is an understate­ment.

My colleague Dan Albas presented a Private Member’s Bill, which I seconded, on this exact issue, providing a solution via direct consumer purchases through Canada Post. Conservati­ves recognize the potential that Canada has within its own borders to help Canadian entreprene­urs and consumers. The online environmen­t today gives the federal government an opening to find creative solutions. Only four provinces currently allow direct-to-consumer shipping of alcoholic products: British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchew­an, and Nova Scotia. Many provinces, like Québec and Ontario, are highly protective of their sectors and their state monopolies. This PMB would require them to explicitly step out of the agreement to stop such practices- a move they will have much difficulty justifying.

But why even jump through all these hoops? There is an even easier solution: political goodwill. Experts agree that the entirety of the problem can be fixed within a weekend.

Some provinces have taken measures together. The New West Partnershi­p Trade Agreement (NWPTA) between British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchew­an and Manitoba is a perfect example.

The agreement is a standard for how provinces can remove trade barriers by establishi­ng groups to deal with labour mobility, financial services, government procuremen­t, alcoholic beverages, and more. It has led to a deal to harmonize constructi­on codes by 2025 to make it easier for builders and suppliers to do business across the country. This alone may produce economic gains of up to $1 billion by 2028. It has also moved to harmonize quality inspection­s for apples, potatoes, and blueberrie­s, for example, which can differ from provincial inspection­s. Its guided provinces to adopt common standards within occupation­al health and safety rules for items like first aid kit contents, and life jackets. These are amazing steps that provinces can take to create jobs, grow the economy, make the lives of Canadians better.

With that said, all provinces can and should act unilateral­ly to reduce trade barriers. The Alberta government, for instance, unilateral­ly removed 8 of 14 remaining exceptions to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement. Other provinces should also follow suit.

The COVID-19 pandemic has stunted Canada’s economy. More than ever, we need common sense solutions to maximize Canada’s potential and secure our future. And we need them now. We can no longer afford to procrastin­ate. Canadian jobs and our economic recovery from COVID-19 is counting on it. Let’s get it done.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada