The Canadian Constitution Foundation offers its best wishes to the Prime Minister and First Ministers meeting in Montreal this Friday, December 7, for productive talks on breaking down archaic interprovincial trade barriers that are holding the Canadian economy back. We understand that each province has its own regional concerns, but when it comes to promoting free trade within Canada, all provinces and all parties should be able to set aside their differences for the common good of the country.
Economists (and the Senate of Canada) have estimated that full free trade and labour mobility within Canada would add between $50 billion and $130 billion to our national GDP. And a StatsCan study concluded that interprovincial barriers to free trade act as the equivalent of a 7% tariffs on goods travelling across provincial borders.
At a time when Canada must be competitive around the globe, and when most of our governments are running large deficits, we can’t afford to leave this money on the table. It’s madness to insist that our national economy operate in a straitjacket that other federations, such as Australia, the United States, and the E.U., have thrown off.
While Canada has promoted freer trade abroad we have too-long ignored the potential to grow our economic market here at home. It makes no sense to be talking about trade with an uncertain partner like China while doing little to promote full free trade between British Columbia and Alberta, or between Quebec and New Brunswick.
The Canadian Free Trade Agreement, signed last year by the provinces, territories and the federal government was a modest start, but so much remains to be done and now is the time. Polls show that more than 90% of Canadians support free trade within Canada, and the federal government has named, for the first time, a Minister responsible for Internal Trade.
At a recent conference hosted by a coalition of charities supporting free trade within Canada under the banner of One Country, One Market, Internal Trade Minister LeBlanc said:
“We think there’s a momentum to build on the Canadian Free Trade Agreement and reach a new consensus that will benefit the Canadian economy and Canadian workers. … We can’t fully take on the new challenges and seize properly new opportunities as a country if we are caught up in old regulations. … We understand that our prosperity depends on our ability to keep our economy strong, to trade with others, but also to trade amongst ourselves more efficiently.”
He also said that discussions should be guided by two “very basic but essential principles: it should be easier and less costly to do business across our country, and we should all be able to buy goods and services from any part and every part of our country.”
We agree. This should not be a political or partisan issue: it is about acting in the best interest of Canadian workers, businesses, and consumers to fulfill the founding promise of our constitution, which intended Canada to be One Country, One Market.
Read the original release here. And watch Minister LeBlanc’s full speech below: