Canada’s provincial leaders push to remove internal trade barriers

Canada’s provincial leaders agreed to remove trade barriers within the country but failed to produce any transformational plans during their annual summit in Saskatchewan. 

Trade featured prominently as the 13 premiers of Canada’s provinces and territories met during the Council of the Federation, which concluded on July 11. 

“I’m encouraged by concrete movement and action to continue removing barriers to trade,” said Saskatchewan leader Scott Moe. 

Myriad regulations and restrictions in Canada’s provinces create a drag on internal trade. Internal trade barriers reduce Canada’s annual GDP by as much as C$130 billion per year, according to a report from the Canadian Senate’s banking and trade committee.  For trucking, that includes different tire weight requirements from province to province. 

Leaders agreed to examine exemptions to the 2017 Canadian Free Trade Agreement. The agreement placed the onus on provinces to harmonize or eliminate policies and regulations that affected trade. 

Progress has been slow.

“It’s easier to move goods and services or workers and professionals between the 28 sovereign countries of the European Union than between the 10 provinces and three territories of Canada. That’s just wrong,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said.

The summit showcased the new, increasingly conservative face of provincial governments that have resisted the Federal government under Liberal Justin Trudeau, particularly over carbon taxes. 

But the summit revealed the complicated relationship that provinces have with the federal government. 

Case in point: Kenney suggested the federal government could insist an oil pipeline go through Quebec. While François Legault suggested a pipeline is a non-starter for the province. 

The premiers also called on Canada’s government to push for exemptions to “Buy American” provisions in the United States, which were expanded by President Trump. They favor domestic suppliers in certain publicly funded projects, including public transportation. 

Bombardier cited “Buy American” policies as one of the reasons it plans to lay off 550 workers from its railway car plant in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

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Nate Tabak, Canada Correspondent

Nate Tabak is a journalist, editor and producer in Toronto. He covers Canada for FreightWaves, with a keen interest on the cross-border economic relationship with the United States. Nate spent seven years working as an investigative editor and reporter based in Kosovo. He covered everything from corruption to the country’s emerging wine industry. He also reported across the Balkans and investigated Albania’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Nate grew up in Berkeley, Calif. He enjoys exploring Toronto with his wife and is always looking forward to his next meal.

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