On July 22, 2016, the Canadian provincial premiers and the
Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and
Economic Development announced they had entered into an
“unprecedented agreement in principle”:
Some premiers did not make any announcements on their official
web-sites, which suggests that they walked away displeased and not
wanting to sign on. Most Premiers said very little, which
also indicates a luke warm enthusiasm. It may the that the limited
announcements were for the benefit for the media and Canadian
businesses who expected more from he leaders. Breaking down
inter-provincial trade barriers will improve opportunities for
Canadian businesses at home and should increase employment. I
would expect that Premiers want to take and no one wants to
1. With whom is the “Canadian Trade
Believe it or not, the Canadian Trade Agreement is an agreement
between the Canadian provinces and the Canadian federal government
to reduce inter-provincial trade barriers. Protectionism is alive
and well and living within Canada.
2. Doesn’t Canada have a Constitution that covers
Yes, the Constitution Act, 1867 does cover
inter-provincial trade. Section 121 of the Constitution
“All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of
any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be
admitted free into each of the other Provinces.”
The New Brunswick Provincial Court stated in the recent R. v. Comeau decision
Section 121 should be interpreted as permitting “free
movement of goods among the provinces without barriers, tariff or
non-tariff…” (See paragraph 191 of Comeau
“The Fathers of Confederation wanted free trade between
respective jurisdictions … the Union meant free trade, the
breaking down of all trade barriers as between provinces forming
part of the proposed Dominion of Canada …” (See
paragraph 101 of Comeau decision)
Judge LeBlanc was given evidence about the oratory of the
Fathers of Confederation. The Fathers of Confederation envisioned
internal free trade within Canada as can be read in statements made
at the time:
“… if we wish … to establish a commercial
union, with unrestricted free trade, between people of the five
provinces …” Sir John A. MacDonald, February 6,
“Union of all Provinces would break down all trade
barriers between us” – George Brown, September 12,
“Now we desire to bring about that same free trade in our
own colonies” – Alexander Galt, November 1, 1865
”Union is free trade among ourselves …Give us
Union and the East shall have free trade with the West.”
– Alexander Galt, February 7, 1865
“… the chief benefits expected to flow from
Confederation was the free interchange of the products of the
labour of each province” – Alexander Galt, November 23,
3. What does “Agreement-in-Principle” Mean?
Usually, the phrase “agreement in principle” is used
when the parties are not in agreement on all aspects, but want to
announce that progress is being made. It is watered-down
4. Is the Canadian Free Trade Agreement Public?
No, the text has not been released and is not expected to be
released for some time.
5. Do We Know What is In the Canadian Free Trade
Unfortunately, little information has been released. We
know that the provinces have developed “negative
lists”. Which means there will be free trade on
everything except what is contained on the lists. However, we
have no information on what is listed on the negative lists as
being outside the scope of the free trade agreement. So, we
do not know what protected goods will not longer be
protected. We also do not know if new protections will be
arising. we know that wine and alcohol continues to be an
issue for the premiers.
We know that the Trade in Services Chapter is more extensive
that the Agreement on Internal Trade. However, we do not know that
is on the negative lists.
We know that there is a Government Procurement Chapter and that
Alberta would like to limit what types of projects must be opened
to contractors in other Canadian provinces.
We know that mutual recognition has not moved forward. We
also know that harmonization has not moved forward also.
There may be a mechanism to deal with these issues – but we
will not know if it will work until we get more information.
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