The P.E.I. chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is in favour of getting rid of interprovincial trade barriers, an issue debated at the annual premiers' conference in Charlottetown Thursday.        

Erin McGrath-Gaudet, director of CFIB P.E.I. and intergovernmental policy, says the barriers are bad for business.

Erin McGrath-Gaudet

It's time to open the flow of trade between provinces, says the Erin McGrath-Gaudet, director of the CFIB in P.E.I. and intergovernmental policy. (CFIB)

McGrath-Gaudet says it's difficult to estimate what these trade barriers are costing the P.E.I. economy, but she believes the time has come, especially with international trade agreements, to open up the flow of goods and workers within Canada.

"One that's often quoted as a prohibitive barrier is liquor. So, you know, trying to get a B.C. wine or an Ontario wine or a Nova Scotia wine across provincial barriers is a challenge," says McGrath-Gaudet.

She also cites the example of different safety regulations between provinces, which she says discourages businesses from expanding to other areas of the country.

"But a lot of it is just those pesky barriers that for a small business mean, you know what, it's not worth it. To go through all this paperwork, to go through extra training, certification, registrations, to buy the new first aid kit, all of that, it's just not worth it."

Construction status quo

However, Ross Barnes, executive director of the Construction Association of P.E.I. doesn't think dropping trade barriers would make much of a difference for its industry and workers.

pei-school-construction

Dropping trade barriers likely wouldn't help or hurt the P.E.I. construction industry, says Ross Barnes, executive director of the Construction Association of P.E.I. ((CBC))

He says interprovincial tendering is already allowed on projects in Atlantic Canada.

He doesn't think opening it up further, to all provinces, would mean more competition for Island projects, a concern that Ontario has raised as a reason not to drop barriers.

Barnes doesn't think it would be affordable for Island companies to bid on projects outside the Atlantic region, so he doesn't believe fewer barriers would mean more work for Island construction workers.

"We do get, on occasion, mainland contractors bidding on projects on P.E.I., more so in the past than in the present just because we don't have the large projects that they're looking for," said Barnes.

"They bring their own manpower over and they have to house them and feed them and that increases their cost, which is why the Island contractors say that they can do it cheaper."