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The inter-provincial politics of ... sidewalk bricks?

A freshly laid sidewalk in Aylmer, Que., was once torn apart because the bricks were made in the wrong province.

In 1985, brick sidewalk in Aylmer, Que., was uninstalled because the bricks weren't Quebec-made

The bricks had to go

Digital Archives

36 years ago
1:29
A sidewalk was torn up in Aylmer, Que., in 1985, because the bricks weren't made in the right province. 1:29

The bricks came from the wrong side of the Ottawa River and that was a problem.

They had been installed on a sidewalk along a regional highway in Aylmer, Que., and that was also a problem. 

And while the contractor had purchased the bricks from a Quebec supplier, they had actually been manufactured in Nepean, a suburb in Canada's capital city.

Rules are rules?

The contract for the sidewalk job had been signed with the Quebec Ministry of Transport and it required that all materials used for the job be made in Quebec.

That discrepancy meant those freshly laid bricks — then worth nearly $4,000, according to a report from the CBC's Julie Van Dusen — had to be ripped up, and they were, in September of 1985.

Van Dusen said regulations had been in effect for two decades to "promote and protect Quebec companies" and favour them for jobs.

"Quebec isn't the only province to have this protectionist policy. Other provinces have it, too," said Van Dusen, when explaining the reasons behind the tear-up. 

"But according to the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, Quebec is the quickest to penalize. And what's happened here in Aylmer has happened before."

They didn't keep the originals

Constance Provost, the mayor of Aylmer, Que., is seen talking to the CBC's Cory O'Kelly in October 1986. (CBC Ottawa/CBC Archives)

A new set of Quebec-made bricks was then put down, which led to a new twist in the story that winter — those new bricks decayed prematurely and ended up having to be replaced themselves.

"I'm ashamed that Quebec City has not kept the first ones," said Aylmer Mayor Constance Provost, when discussing the brick-related saga with the CBC's Cory O'Kelly in October 1986.

In 1987, The National reported on the inter-provincial trade barriers that existed within Canada, even as Ottawa sought a free-trade deal with the United States. 

In its report, it cited the Aylmer episode involving the barred bricks as an example of those barriers.

Trade barriers in Canada

Digital Archives

34 years ago
4:04
A look at the trade barriers within Canada, at a time when the country sought a free-trade deal with the U.S. 4:04

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