Now is the time to smash barriers to interprovincial trade

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Canada’s beleaguered economy has an $80-billion-a-year stimulus injection sitting right in front of it, and it won’t cost its governments a penny to pick it up. They won’t have to raise taxes to pay for it. They’ll actually make money from it – lots of it.

What would it take?

“One weekend,” former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz told an online forum last week.

It would have to be a heck of a weekend. Removing Canada’s largely indefensible barriers to interprovincial trade would require a rare collective political goodwill among provincial premiers, and serious leadership from Ottawa.

But if the COVID-19-imposed economic carnage and government debt explosion aren’t enough to convince provincial leaders to roll up their sleeves for a couple of days to drain the protectionist quagmires, I don’t know what will.

“Politics is the art of the possible. I see no reason why this isn’t possible,” Mr. Poloz said.

The event at which Mr. Poloz spoke – the True North Free Trade Forum – was an initiative by the Ontario government to kick-start the conversation among provincial governments and business leaders. Every province was represented at the forum – evidence that, at least in principle, there is a national consensus that interprovincial trade liberalization is a no-brainer.

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