Jason Kenney: Alberta will lead on internal trade and hopes all Canada joins us
Special to National Post Jason Kenney
Internal barriers to trade and labour mobility cost our economy between $50 billion and $130 billion every year — which dwarfs the benefits of recent agreements with Asia or Europe
The west has always led the fight for free trade within Canada, and yesterday, Alberta was proud to set a new standard for openness and free enterprise by announcing real action to set a new standard on internal free trade. It is time to move beyond timid gradualism, and if that takes one province to set an entrepreneurial example, then Alberta is proud to be that province.
That is why I announced on Wednesday that Alberta will drop all of our provincial exceptions to the 2017 Canadian Free Trade Agreement relating to procurement, and we invite other provinces to do the same. We are also launching a fast-track review of the few remaining exceptions with the goal of eliminating those that are not required by international trade agreements, our relationship with First Nations, or a similarly compelling reason. Finally, we have invited other willing provinces to join the four western provinces in the more trade-friendly New West Partnership Trade Agreement. This will make Alberta the most open market in Canada.
This action is overdue. Internal barriers to trade and labour mobility within Canada cost our economy between $50 billion and $130 billion every year — a number that dwarfs the benefits of recent free trade agreements with Asia or Europe. Statistics Canada says that this is the equivalent of a seven per cent tariff on goods crossing provincial borders. By comparison, they found no such drag on trade between U.S. states.
The minutiae of interprovincial trade policy may not be top of mind for most Canadian voters, but the jobs and investment that free trade within Canada would create most certainly are. Those tens of billions of dollars lost to interprovincial red tape are truly a lost opportunity: lost jobs, lost income, lost tax revenue.
At a time when every province is facing unprecedented fiscal pressure, it makes no sense to continue to shackle our economies and muzzle our potential with internal trade and labour barriers. That is why I am challenging other provinces to move to automatic mutual recognition of professional and trades qualifications wherever possible, and if we cannot get such agreement multilaterally, then Alberta is prepared to move unilaterally.
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