OTTAWA, ON (December 14, 2018): This week has seen a major development in the long quest to break down the economic barriers that divide Canadians.
In an op-ed in the Financial Post, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley have proposed a grand national bargain finally to liberate trade between the provinces and properly defend the economic rights of Canadians. In doing so, Pallister becomes one of the first premiers in modern times to assert boldly the central federal role over trade and commerce between Canadians across provincial boundaries.
As the authors point out, the “barriers that prevent Canadians from trading their products and services and exercising their professions are real and costly and hurt Canada’s international competitiveness.” And last week’s meetings between the premiers and Prime Minister Trudeau provided further evidence that counting on the premiers to negotiate a solution is unlikely to bring much further progress.
So, what can we do? Pallister and Crowley suggest that the premiers should agree to a federal Charter of Economic Rights which would clarify in law that every Canadian can do business on equal terms across Canada. This proposal was first made several years ago in a Macdonald-Laurier Institute paper, titled “Citizen of One, Citizen of the Whole,” echoing George Brown’s powerful assertion of the benefits of economic union at the time of Confederation. Now, more than 150 year later, we could see Brown’s dream fulfilled.
Such an agreement would be immensely beneficial for the country as a whole. For example, Statcan has estimated that provincial protectionism costs Canadians the equivalent of a seven per cent tariff on everything they buy from another province. Of greater importance, Canadians would now have the freedom to trade and work with their fellow citizens in other provinces. Americans face no such tariffs between states, and so Canadians “must compete with their international trading partners with one hand tied behind their back.”
Still, the provinces may require some convincing to recognise this federal authority, and so Pallister and Crowley propose that in return the federal government should undertake to respect the Constitutional authority of the provinces over health care delivery. The federal government would ensure the provinces have revenue sources under their own control equal to their health-care responsibilities with a transfer of tax points and adjustments to equalization.
The full article is available here.
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