Feds remove regulatory barriers to trade, hope provinces will follow suit

OTTAWA — The federal government is taking immediate steps to remove some regulatory barriers to trade across the country, hoping to persuade provinces to follow its example.

For starters, it is making the national building code available for free, making it easier for the construction industry to access a single, standardized set of rules which the feds hope the provinces will adopt. Until now, downloading the code has cost $350 and provinces have imposed a patchwork of different rules and interpretations on top.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says the move was inspired by Australia, which saw $1 billion worth of additional economic activity after getting its state governments to harmonize their building codes and drop the fee for accessing them.

“The faster we can get to a national building code, a standardized building code, the better it will be for that whole sector to reduce costs and grow their businesses,” LeBlanc said in an interview Wednesday.

The move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing to hold a first ministers’ meeting next week, at which eliminating interprovincial trade barriers is high on the agenda.

“I’ve been saying to provincial governments that we want to come to the conversation having identified the federal barriers because I don’t pretend that they’re exclusively provincial,” said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc said the federal government is focusing on areas where it can act quickly to remove regulatory hurdles that impede trade between provinces and territories and add unnecessary costs to businesses.

Besides making the building code free, the government is amending federal energy-efficiency regulations for household appliances, clarifying food labelling rules and modernizing meat inspection regulations.

And it is expanding the federal definition of what constitutes vodka to include vodka made from something other than potatoes or grain. The current definition has meant that a Nova Scotia or Manitoba micro-distillery that makes vodka from apples can’t label it and sell it in other provinces as vodka.

“There are dozens of examples like that that we’re trying to eliminate federally, quickly because it gives us I think a better story to tell when we’re asking provinces to do their part,” LeBlanc said.

At next week’s first ministers’ meeting, he said the federal government will propose movement in other areas, particularly in the trucking industry and food inspection.

Trade between provinces and territories accounts for 20 per cent of Canada’s economic activity, worth $370 billion a year. LeBlanc said studies by the Bank of Canada and others have estimated that removing interprovincial trade barriers would add up to 2 percentage points to Canada’s economic growth rate — equivalent to the projected economic benefit of Canada’s recently concluded free trade agreement with the European Union.

“But we shouldn’t kid ourselves,” LeBlanc added. “That requires major and significant movement and, frankly, what we’re proposing is just a series of initial steps.”

Barriers to the free flow of booze across provincial borders is probably the most difficult internal trade nut to crack and LeBlanc said the federal government is exploring what it can do to encourage provinces to eliminate those barriers. One option, he said, would be to set up an electronic platform that would facilitate direct-to-consumer online sales of wine, beer and alcohol, while ensuring that each participating province gets its share of tax revenue.

“We can’t impose that … but if enough of (the provinces) say, ‘You know what, let’s try this for three years and see how it would work,’ we think it could be part of improving consumer choice.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 36-year-old Eckville man was sentenced in Red Deer provincial court to 18 years in prison and declared a long-term offender for abusing children as young as two.
Advocate file photo
Central Alberta pedophile sentenced to 18 years in prison and declared a long-term offender

Eckville man abused nearly a dozen children as young as two over nearly a decade

Sundre RCMP charged two people with drug trafficking. (File photo by Advocate staff)
$50,000 solar light tower stolen in 2019, recovered in Central Alberta

A solar light tower valued at over $50,000 was recovered by Wetaskiwin… Continue reading

Red Deer transit buses are returning to a regular half-hour schedule. (Advocate file photo).
Red Deer Transit returns to regular bus frequency

Buses will return to running every half hour on Wednesday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

WASHINGTON — Canada won’t stop trying to convince U.S. president-elect Joe Biden… Continue reading

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, holds a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
COVID-19 vaccines: Canadians torn between helping the world and helping themselves

MONTREAL — The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is highlighting the disconnect between the… Continue reading

A worker installs flags on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/David Phillip
‘Very mesmerizing’: Canadians eye Biden inauguration with relief, anxiety

Katie Thompson noticed a pattern emerging with appointments made at her chiropractic… Continue reading

Parliamentary interpreter Nicole Gagnon poses for a photo on Parliament Hill, Tuesday January 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Parliamentary hearings over Zoom an ongoing headache for translators

OTTAWA — Each day, translator Nicole Gagnon wakes up and heads to… Continue reading

People lineup at a hotel for the homeless before the 8 p.m. COVID-19 curfew on Jan. 11, 2021, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal mayor wants homeless exempted from curfew in wake of Innu man’s death

Montreal’s mayor is calling on the provincial government to exempt homeless people… Continue reading

Conservative MP Derek Sloan arrives at West Block Thursday December 3, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tories unsettled over whether ends justifies the means in ouster of Derek Sloan

OTTAWA — Efforts to oust controversial Conservative MP Derek Sloan from the… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question as he participates in a news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
No Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to be shipped to Canada next week: Fortin

OTTAWA — Canada is not going to get any vaccine does from… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question as he participates in a news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Cancel foreign trips because travel rules could change suddenly, Trudeau says

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says any Canadian planning an international… Continue reading

Most Read