Ministers responsible for internal trade from every province and territory across Canada have agreed to move quickly to remove internal trade barriers in Canada, but there are major hurdles ahead, including creating a trade dispute mechanism that applies to the provinces, they said after a meeting in Toronto today.
Federal industry minister James Moore called the commitment to create a new internal trade regime by March 2016 "a great moment for Canada."
And he hinted that all 10 provinces and three territories were willing to look at creating some kind of mutual recognition for each other's standards – including trucking regulations and provincial licensing of trades and professions.
"We have determined the best way to tackle some of these barriers is to be more open. That is the path we are choosing," Moore said at a press conference in Toronto.
"There should be as much free trade within Canada as there is between Canada and the U.S. or the EU," he said.
Hodge-podge of standards
He said one of the things that was being negotiated was a way to "recognize standards across Canada regardless of jurisdiction."
On Monday, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business highlighted the differing provincial standards and licensing for engineers, millwrights and other trades as a key barrier to internal trade.
Among the other issues raised as barriers at the ministers meeting were:
- Labour mobility.
- Transportation and shipping standards and costs.
- Provincial liquor laws that block wine or beer from other provinces.
- A trade dispute mechanism.
Moore said labour mobility was a key issue, because of the "ongoing challenge of jobs without people and people without jobs."
The premiers committed last year to a new internal trade regime by March 2016. The meeting in Toronto advanced the agenda for revising the Agreement on Internal Trade, which has governed interprovincial trade since 1995.
More talks in fall
The provincial, federal and territorial ministers meeting in Toronto were reluctant to give specifics of their negotiations today. But Ontario minister of economic development Brad Duguid said the remarkable development is to get everyone committed to a wholesale approach to take down barriers.
"It's not easy. If it were easy, we would have done it 50 years ago," Duguid said. "It would be easier to do it sector by sector so each province could determine its areas of interest."
He acknowledged there would be sensitive areas in future negotiations, expected to be held over the summer, among them supply management. The provincial ministers gather again in the fall.
"There will be issues some provinces will have issues on some items. We will work together to respect those challenges," he said.