Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Protectionism a dead weight on economy

  • Print

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall drew a bead on Ontario's penchant for giving domestic companies preference when contracting for public works or in other government procurement bids. Mr. Wall called upon the premiers at their annual conference, in Charlottetown last week, to tear down the barriers to interprovincial trade in a country increasingly interested in opening its borders to the global flow of commodities and services.

The Agreement on Internal Trade, signed 19 years ago, was supposed to eliminate barriers. Today, the premiers are calling its bluff -- there is no good enforcement of its fine principles and that means, for example, provincial monopolies and regulations can frustrate the free flow of wine across borders despite the fact the federal government has legislated an open-door rule.

Ontario has made it clear it is standing pat on its local-knowledge clause that awards additional points to companies in that province when bids come in on tendered work. Premier Kathleen Wynne has said this is good public policy in a province still struggling for an economic boost; keeping money circulating within local communities has the trickle-down effect of supporting jobs and spreading wealth.

Of course, this is the antithesis of free trade, an economic compact that boosts a country's gross domestic product, improves competition and underpins the rights of mobility of citizens. Canadians don't have to carry papers to cross borders, but if your journeyman's licence doesn't certify you to do electrical work in a neighbouring province, your options to exploit shifting job markets are limited.

Constitutionally, tariffs and duties are verboten in Canada. But provinces have historically frustrated free trade through the use of regulatory regimes that impose on the various sectors rules for the importation of goods, transportation of commodities and hiring of trades and professions.

Just try, the transportation sector says, to drive a semi-trailer from Vancouver to Halifax. Despite vowing to harmonize requirements on weights and measures, the provinces still have not fully come to standardize their rules. Further, even where they have, jurisdictions are still hanging tight to different rules for the number of hours a trucker can be behind the wheel.

Canada has forged effective free-trade agreements across the globe and has seen its economy grow as a result. Yet, provinces continue to work in protectionist ways. The smart bet is premiers will be arguing for another 20 years about uneven standards of trade and policies that unapologetically give local procurement a leg up.

Manitoba's economy is too dependent on moving its goods -- food, manufactured products and natural resources -- across borders to stay silent or hope for goodwill to prevail. The Selinger government, however, has refused to see the benefit of joining the New West Partnership, the trade pact signed by the three other western governments that has seen B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan standardizing rules of trade, removing barriers to movement of goods and opening their unified market to global buyers. A one-stop corporate registration process is very attractive to foreign corporations looking for a toe-hold in the Canadian market.

Not everyone's happy. Under the New West, Saskatchewan awards public work contracts to the lowest bid and heavy-construction firms there must now compete with Alberta companies that don't have a PST eroding the profit margin.

But Mr. Wall's grievance is solid and unassailably principled in a country that is pursuing open borders around the globe. Premier Greg Selinger should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him and he can promote liberalized trade by joining the New West's campaign to pull Canada firmly out of archaic protectionism.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 2, 2014 A12

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Sneak peek: The galleries of CMHR

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Weather standup. Sundog. Refraction of light through ice crystals which caused both the sun dog and and fog along McPhillips Road early Wednesday morning. 071205.
  • A young goose gobbles up grass at Fort Whyte Alive Monday morning- Young goslings are starting to show the markings of a adult geese-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 20– June 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think the Scottish independence referendum will have an effect in Canada?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google