Time for action on internal trade: an open letter to Canada’s First Ministers

Date: December 6, 2018

Publication Type: Letters

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Dear Prime Minister and Premiers,

On behalf of the men and women who run many of Canada’s leading companies and largest employers, I am writing to offer support and encouragement as you prepare for this week’s First Ministers’ Meeting in Montreal.

Your meeting comes at an important time. After nearly a decade of growth, Canada’s economy is facing strong headwinds and difficult new realities. Canadians in every region need your leadership to reinvigorate the country’s economic union.

For decades, Canada has benefited from a global trend toward freer trade and the development of the rules-based multilateral trading system. But the global consensus around this model is at risk of breaking down. Countries – not least the United States – are fighting aggressively for investment and jobs, often at the expense of their traditional allies and trading partners.

On its own, Canada cannot hope to reverse the tide of protectionism. But there is much we can do at home to strengthen our economy and shape a more positive future for our citizens. We should start by addressing the economic impediments that we impose on ourselves. Many of your governments are doing that, having taken steps recently to reduce business costs, promote job creation, and make life more affordable for Canadians.

We welcome these measures, but they need to be combined with a national effort to create a common market that enables Canadians to work and do business with one another regardless of where they live. Entrepreneurs and companies need expanded access to both domestic and international markets so they can reap the full value of what they produce. This could be achieved through greater cooperation in areas such as transportation rules, food safety, building codes and electricity markets.

The situation today – more than two years after the signing of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement – is intolerable. Inefficient and overlapping regulatory systems stand in the way of trade and business growth, costing Canadians millions of dollars every day in higher prices and lost income. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the energy sector, where our inability to build pipeline infrastructure has imposed a severe burden on workers, families and communities.

The crisis unfolding in the energy sector affects all Canadians. Good middle-class jobs are at risk across the country if the energy price differential persists. We call on the Prime Minister and Premiers to develop a plan for the energy sector that includes concrete actions to get Canadian resources to market.

When they met in July in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada’s Premiers promised to “accelerate the pace of reducing barriers to trade within Canada”.  It is now time to show results. We urge you to seize this opportunity to build a stronger and truly national economy.

Sincerely,

Goldy Hyder
President and Chief Executive Officer
Business Council of Canada

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