Small Business Owners Demanding Removal of Internal Trade Barriers, CFIB Report Card Reveals

Canadian Federation of Independent Business urges mutual recognition to address slow progress

by Morinville Online Staff

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its State of Internal Trade: Canada’s Interprovincial Cooperation Report Card, revealing that 88% of small business owners call on the government to eliminate barriers hindering the flow of goods, services and workers between provinces and territories. The report card, which evaluates governments on various aspects of internal trade, indicates what CFIB says is another year of mediocre grades and emphasizes mutual recognition as the best path forward.

Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB’s Executive Vice-President of Advocacy, highlighted the urgency of addressing internal trade barriers during the Council of the Federation meeting in Winnipeg. Pohlmann expressed frustration, stating, “It is ridiculous that Canadians are still unable to order and ship Canadian alcohol products from other provinces, purchase meat inspected in another province, or work in multiple provinces without navigating excessive hurdles.” She emphasized the potential positive impact on sectors like healthcare, where labour shortages persist if workers could seamlessly move between provinces and territories.

The report card assigned grades to governments based on exceptions to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), select barriers to internal trade, and the implementation status of reconciliation agreements. Manitoba topped the list with a score of 8.9 out of 10, closely followed by Alberta with a B+ grade at 7.6 out of 10. Saskatchewan and British Columbia received grades of 7.9 and 7.7, respectively. However, most provinces received Cs, with Quebec receiving a D, scoring 4.4 out of 10.

While some positive progress has been made, including the federal government’s new internal trade action plan, Ontario’s “as of right” legislation, and the Atlantic provinces’ physician registry, Marvin Cruz, CFIB Director of Research, noted that progress overall has been frustratingly slow.

The report card proposes a bold recommendation for eliminating barriers: mutual recognition of all provincial and territorial regulatory standards, except for those included in an exemption list. This means that if a business meets health and safety standards in its home province, those standards should be recognized by any other province or territory. The CFIB suggests that this can be achieved through unilateral action or as a collective effort.

Pohlmann concluded, “Enough excuses. There never seems to be a good time for governments to prioritize reducing internal trade barriers. With labour shortages becoming increasingly pressing and costs mounting from every level of government, Canadians cannot afford this slow, incremental progress. Mediocrity is no longer acceptable, which is why governments must move forward with mutual recognition.”

CFIB’s Canada’s Interprovincial Cooperation Report Card can be found online.

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