Macdonald-Laurier Institute Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley, appearing on News Talk 770 in Calgary on Wednesday, called for Canadian governments to take a new approach to removing interprovincial trade barriers.

Breaking down trade barriers between provinces has for the most part fell to the provinces. In 1994 the premiers signed the Agreement on Internal Trade, which was designed to free up the movement of goods and services between jurisdictions.

However that agreement has largely been unsuccessful in reaching its goal.

Crowley says that, by leaving the issue in the hands of the provinces, you create a complex agreement that doesn’t have a good enforcement mechanism.

The solution, he says, is to adopt the reverse of the current process.

“We should agree that everything in Canada should be subject to free trade. There should be no barriers. The only barriers that would be allowed under an arrangement like that would be the ones that everybody agrees to”, Crowley told the station.

This week the federal government unveiled a new plan to remove barriers to trade.

It wants to either reform the 1994 Agreement on Internal Trade so it liberates the flow of goods and services or scrap the agreement altogether and replace it with a more effective document.

Crowley is encouraged but says the plan’s success depends on whether the federal government is willing to use its powers under the constitution to force the provinces to take action.

“Part of the promise of Confederation in 1867 was we were going to tear down the barriers that existed between the existing colonies and create one national marketplace”, said Crowley. “One hundred and fifty years later it’s still a work in progress”.

MLI has long advocated for the creation of a charter of economic rights that the courts would enforce.

Meanwhile Don Cayo, writing in the Vancouver Sun, agreed that the provinces are unlikely to take action if the federal government doesn’t “step in and toss their weight around”.

To listen to Crowley’s News Talk 770 interview, click here and start listening at August 20 at 10:33 p.m.

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