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Internal Trade Barriers

Next year marks 150 years since our country was formed. Section 121 of the Constitution Act of 1867 states: “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.”

The promise of section 121 has failed to be realized. Far too many unnecessary regulatory and legislative differences exist amongst Canada's jurisdictions, preventing the free flow of people, goods, services and investments between provinces and territories.

By some estimates, this costs the Canadian economy as much as $150 billion annually. It is time for Canada to tear down these walls. It's time to make it as easy to conduct trade amongst ourselves as it is for Canada to conduct trade with other countries.

For this reason the Senate Banking Committee, of which I am Chair, undertook as one of its first orders of business in this Parliament an examination of Canada's internal trade barriers with a view to identifying the actions that our federal, provincial and territorial governments must take on a priority basis to tear down the walls created by internal trade barriers.

The committee held 11 meetings and conducted a fact-finding trip to Vancouver and Calgary. In Ottawa, it heard testimony from 42 witnesses. It received information from 10 groups and individuals during its fact-finding mission to Vancouver and Calgary. Our report, complete with seven recommendations, was tabled in the Senate on June 13.

We are very encouraged by the reception the report received among Canadian business people and experts.

The Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association wrote and said they were “encouraged by a specific finding in the report outlining the economic impediments directly caused by unharmonized provincial carbon regimes”.

University of Calgary Professor, Trevor Tombe, wrote in MacLean's magazine that:

“Overall, the Senate report is strong. It recognizes the importance of trade between provinces, and the economic consequences of inhibiting it. It sketches out the characteristics of what a good deal would look like, and what the Federal government should do to get there. It will prove a useful yardstick by which we can measure any future deal the provinces come up with. We should all be watching closely.”

I know that I, and the members of the Senate Banking Committee, will be doing just that over the next year, to see what advances are made by the premiers and the Federal government to remove barriers to trade and Canada’s economic prosperity.