Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday July 17, 2018
Premiers’ much-hyped internal trade deal hasn’t amounted to much
On the day they released the Canadian Free Trade Agreement in 2017, all the provincial and territorial trade ministers were given a symbolic pair of golden scissors to remind them to start cutting interprovincial trade barriers.
The trouble is, they aren’t using them.
The scissors were gifts from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a relentless advocacy group for whom harmonizing — and ideally, cutting — government regulations is a mantra.
Its president and CEO, Dan Kelly, said he’s seen his snippy trophies proudly displayed in ministers’ offices across Canada. But one year after the trade deal took effect on Canada’s 150th birthday, July 1, 2017, has any tangible progress been made?
“It’s slow-going,” he said. The process lacks concrete timelines. He’s still waiting for the interprovincial trade committee to set priorities, let alone roll back barriers.
“I don’t think there’s anything that has changed, other than a commitment to start some work,” he said, laughing a bit when asked to identify which specific irritants have been settled between provinces in the deal’s first year of operations.
It’s easier to point to reasons things stalled.
There’s the pipeline debate in British Columbia and Alberta’s threat to retaliate, for starters, which risks “undermining the whole spirit of this agreement,” Kelly said. (Saskatchewan, another energy exporter, jumped into this fight too.)
It’s also hard to maintain momentum across 13 governments. During its time as chair of Canada’s internal trade committee, Ontario’s Liberal government (and specifically minister Brad Duguid) was a driving force in finalizing CFTA, which was announced at the premiers conference in Yukon in 2016 but not actually unveiled until the following spring in Toronto.
The chair has changed hands twice since then. First it swung to New Brunswick — home of the much-discussed Comeau case, in which that province’s right to stop its citizens from stocking their personal beer fridges across a provincial boundary was upheld by the Supreme Court. Now it’s Quebec’s turn.
Ontario’s recent change of government also delayed the distribution of a working group report on alcoholic beverages that was due by July 1 (more on that later). (Continued: CBC)