Writing in the National Post, Andrew Coyne referenced the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s research on interprovincial trade for his column about an upcoming meeting between the federal government and the provinces.

Coyne pointed to MLI’s paper on the subject, titled Citizen of One, Citizen of the Whole, in making the case that the federal government has all the power it needs to knock down barriers to internal trade.

The federal government has issued a position paper ahead of a meeting with the provinces this week outlining how it wants to do away with interprovincial trade barriers.

It says it either wants to reform the document that governs trade between the provinces, the Agreement on Internal Trade, or replace it with a more effective agreement.

However Coyne worries that this approach will achieve little more than the AIT. In the 20 years since it was signed, he notes, Canada has in some cases achieved freer trade with other countries than it has within its own borders.

That’s why he believes the federal government needs to wield the power it has under the constitution to compel the provinces to lower barriers.

The MLI paper points out that Section 91 of the Constitution gives the federal government power over the “Regulation of Trade and Commerce”.

“There is simply no room for doubt that those who created Canada wanted the federal government to have, and use, complete authority to rid Canadians of barriers to the free movement of goods, services, labour and capital within their national home”, the paper says.

MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley wants to see the provinces take a “negative list” approach to liberalizing interprovincial trade. This would make everything in Canada subject to free trade unless everyone agrees to exclude it.

Leaving the issue in the hands of the provinces, by contrast, creates a complicated agreement that doesn’t have a good enforcement mechanism.