“The Supreme Court insisted on seeing the challenge being one to the legislative powers of provinces under the Constitution,” says Crowley. “Yet that has consistently misunderstood, misrepresented or just plain dismissed the intentions of the Fathers of Confederation to protect and nurture these vital economic freedoms.”
Since its early days, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute has established itself as a thought leader on liberating trade between the provinces, a problem that has kept this country from meeting the promise of a true economic union envisioned by its founders.
In 2010, Dr. Crowley co-authored a paper with Robert Knox and John Robson, titled “Citizen of One, Citizen of the Whole,” echoing George Brown’s vision for economic equality. The paper called on the federal government to use its powers to compel provinces to abandon protectionist measures. The paper was re-released in 2017, and sadly remains as timely today as ever.
History has repeatedly shown, says Crowley, that the premiers are unwilling to take a stand on the issue. Leaving it up to them produced the ineffective 1994 Agreement on Internal Trade. And the 2017 Canadian Free Trade Agreement proved to be little better. As Speer wrote at the time, “any process that treats trade barriers as bargaining chips between the provinces…is bound to disappoint.”
Unfortunately, in the case of Comeau, the Supreme Court seems not to agree. What is needed is for the federal government to take the issue out of the hands of the provinces. Instead, says Crowley, the feds should get tough with them by establishing a charter of economic rights that the courts would enforce.
“What makes it worthwhile for local communities to join a federation is at least partly the promise of higher prosperity made possible by larger national markets; but to realise that promise, you must create a nation-building federal government with the power and the will to give all citizens access to opportunity wherever it may be on the national territory,” wrote Crowley in a May 2014 column in the Globe and Mail.
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