Macdonald-Laurier Institute Managing Director calls for the creation of a charter of economic rights that would use the courts to force the premiers into destroying internal trade barriers.

OTTAWA, Oct. 23, 2014 – Internal trade barriers will continue to impede the free flow of goods in Canada until Ottawa steps in to get tough with the provinces, Macdonald-Laurier Institute Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley says in a new commentary.

Provincial governments have repeatedly demonstrated they are unwilling to dismantle the protectionist rules and regulations that prevent the free movement of goods and services across borders.

Fixing an exact cost to the economy of these barriers is difficult, says Crowley. What’s clear, however, is that they unfairly disrupt Canadians’ right to opportunity everywhere within our borders – one of the central reasons for creating the country in the first place.

“Provinces that throw up trade barriers are thus not merely protecting local markets, but are undermining the promise of Confederation, namely that people could buy and sell goods and services and exercise their profession anywhere in the country”, Crowley writes in the commentary, titled “Internal Charade: The provinces are the problem, not the solution to internal trade barriers in Canada”.

“Internal barriers are an attack on the rights of Canadians as well as a bar to prosperity”.

The problem, says Crowley, is that successive federal governments keep running into the same trap: they assume that, since the provinces have created the barriers, the only way to remove them is to beg and cajole the premiers to tear them down.

This strategy has repeatedly failed to deal with the issue.

The premiers produced the Agreement on Internal Trade in 1994, but the provinces still think nothing of flouting trade rulings that do not go their way. The most recent premiers’ meeting, held this past August, yielded little more than platitudes on the subject.

The solution resides instead with powers that Ottawa already has. By creating a charter of economic rights, Crowley argues, the federal government would force the provinces to act.

Rather than leaving enforcement of any agreement up to the provinces, the courts would make sure that everyone complies.

“In internal trade, the provinces are the problem and Ottawa is, by and large, the solution”, Crowley writes.

The commentary is based on comments Crowley made at a University of Calgary event held in Ottawa in September.

To read the full report, click here.


Brian Lee Crowley is the Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, the only non-partisan, independent national public policy think tank in Ottawa focusing on the full range of issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

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