James Moore 'impatient' with provincial trade barriers

The provinces have been slow to clear barriers to trade that slow the economy, federal Industry Minister James Moore says, leaving him "impatient" with their level of ambition.

Federal industry minister calls on provincial officials to be 'ambitious' in freeing up trade

Industry Minister James Moore says the provinces haven't done enough to remove barriers blocking inter-Canadian trade. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

The provinces have been slow to clear barriers to trade that slow the economy, federal Industry Minister James Moore says, leaving him "impatient" with their level of ambition.

On Wednesday, Moore released a report proposing reforms to the current Agreement on Internal Trade.

He says there hasn't been nearly enough done over the past 20 years to smooth over differences in rules and regulations that limit trade among Canadian provinces.

"We shouldn't have barriers that discriminate and deny us economic growth and prevent us from growing, and prevent us from having labour mobility and investment mobility and goods movement within the country," Moore told Chris Hall, the guest host of CBC Radio's The House.

Moore released the report the week before the Council of the Federation, the gathering of Canadian premiers, and says that whether they completely rewrite the agreement or focus on specific sectors, it would be an improvement.

While regions of the country have their own agreement, such as the New West Trade Partnership agreed to by British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, Moore says he's "a little bit" impatient.

Most ministers skipped meeting

"I would hope that there would be more ambition coming out of Council of the Federation," Moore said. 

"We have British Columbia wine that can’t be sold into the province of Saskatchewan or Alberta — even within the trade framework of those three provinces that is the most ambitious."

The most recent annual meeting of ministers responsible for internal trade was limited to a one-hour teleconference in 2013, Moore said, adding "only one third of the ministers bothered to show up."

"That’s how dormant this file has been, and I don’t think that’s good enough. I think we need to have more ambition," Moore said.

"To suggest that it’s been a success story would fly in the face of the evidence presented by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, all of whom have come forward and said that what’s been praised as progress thus far should only be seen as laughable."

Despite that, Moore said he doesn't think any of the provinces are actively blocking the file.

"I’m actually quite optimistic," he said, "and that’s why I put a great deal of energy into the file."


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