The premiers of Canada’s three westernmost provinces continue to lead by example when it comes to trade issues within Canada’s borders.
Yesterday, the premiers of Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. announced they were going to review the remaining trade barriers between the provinces as part of their New West Partnership. The three premiers are meeting with counterparts from other provinces in Charlottetown this week.
The NWP is a working trade agreement signed by the three provinces that forms an economic zone of nine million people. As Global News reports, the New West Partnership Trade Agreement already provides the most open trading environment in Canada.
In the last four years, residency requirements in all three provinces have been eliminated for business registration, occupational standards reconciled and recognized so people can work in their occupations in all three provinces without having to re-certify, and trucking regulations have been harmonized, among other things.
Though the three provinces have made obviously significant progress, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall told media that more can be done.
According to The Canadian Press, Wall said he was taken aback after discovering that a manufacturer of first aid kits would have to satisfy 10 different sets of regulations in order to operate throughout Canada.
“This seems dumb. At the heart of improving trade issues is trying to remove dumb from the economy,” Wall said.
We would have to agree. There is no good reason — outside governmental foot dragging — why Canada’s provincial governments can’t come together and work to eliminate barriers to interprovincial trade and labour mobility rules.
This is especially true in the case of Manitoba, which would be the next logical partner in the New West Partnership. Yet, as we have noted in the past, Manitoba’s NDP government staunchly refuses to even explore the idea with its western neighbours. The provincial government insists that working nationally toward interprovincial trade harmonization and labour mobility rules is a better alternative.
That’s a fine sentiment — work with everyone toward the same goal all at once. And for its part, the federal government seems to be paying some lip service to the idea. The feds say nearly 40 per cent of Canada’s trade occurs within Canada’s borders and that creation of a new internal trade plan, outlined in the Harper government’s Economic Action Plan 2014, would identify barriers to domestic trade.
But identifying barriers in domestic trade is still a long ways away from solving them, and the NWP is already well down that road.
Last month, Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister called for the province to join a push by the NWP trade block to join Ottawa in removing internal trade barriers.
Pallister said the three member premiers of the NWP co-signed a letter to Premier Greg Selinger to promote the creation of a new free trade partnership — a national free trade deal that would replace the 20-year-old Agreement on Internal Trade.
That proposed partnership is currently under discussion around the premiers’ table.
We believe this is a worthy initiative, and we hope Selinger will add his voice to the growing chorus. But this idea will take a lot of time to gain momentum, and in the meantime, Manitoba remains on the outside looking in when it comes to our western neighbours.
And we shouldn’t be.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 29, 2014