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  • Could skyrocketing private sector debt spell economic crisis? June 21, 2017
    Our latest report finds that Canada is racking up private sector debt faster than any other advanced economy in the world, putting the country at risk of serious economic consequences. The report, Addicted to Debt, reveals that Canada has added $1 trillion in private sector debt over the past five years, with the corporate sector […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Betting on Bitumen: Alberta's energy policies from Lougheed to Klein June 8, 2017
    The role of government in Alberta, both involvement and funding, has been critical in ensuring that more than narrow corporate interests were served in the development of the province’s bitumen resources.  A new report contrasts the approaches taken by two former premiers during the industry’s early development and rapid expansion periods.  The Lougheed government invested […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Canada-China FTA will leave workers worse off June 2, 2017
    Global Affairs Canada is currently consulting Canadians on a possible Canada-China free trade agreement. In CCPA’s submission to this process, CCPA senior researcher Scott Sinclair argues that an FTA based on Canada’s standard template would almost certainly reinforce rather than improve upon Canada’s imbalanced and deleterious trade with China. It can also be expected to […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Faulty assumptions about pipelines and tidewater access May 30, 2017
    The federal and Alberta governments and the oil industry argue that pipelines to tidewater will unlock new markets where Canadian oil can command a better price than in the US, where the majority of Canadian oil is currently exported. Both governments have approved Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project, but a new report finds that […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Weathering the storm: is this the end of CRA’s political activities audits? May 5, 2017
    Yesterday, following a panel’s recommendation to allow charities more freedom to speak out, the federal government decided to suspend the Canada Revenue Agency’s controversial political activities audit program. Indeed this is good news for Canadian charities. Everyone at the CCPA is proud of the role our organization has played in challenging these audits and in […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Financial Crisis and Interprovincial Trade

In Saturday’s Globe, Gordon Campbell ridiculously presented eliminating inter-provincial barriers as a response to the global financial crisis. Although Marc beat me to the punch in replying, I have a few further thoughts.

Several months ago, TILMA boosters said that removing alleged barriers to labour mobility was particularly pressing given a “tight” labour market. Today, the same people say that removing barriers is particularly pressing given an economic downturn and rising unemployment. These contradictory arguments confirm that TILMA is a solution in search of a problem.

The notion of eliminating inter-provincial barriers as a response to the financial crisis reminds me of a point that J. K. Galbraith made in The Affluent Society: the economic losses caused by microeconomic inefficiencies are very small compared to those caused by macroeconomic problems. Even wildly excessive estimates of supposed inter-provincial barriers suggest that these cost 0.25% of GDP. Even the most conservative estimates of how much the financial crisis is reducing annual GDP relative to normal growth are at least ten times larger. Stimulating the overall economy is far more important than ironing out tiny inefficiencies.

The renewed attack on supposed inter-provincial barriers is especially bizarre because, this past summer, Quebec dismantled its famous restriction on coloured margarine and all Premiers agreed to mutual recognition of occupational credentials as well as financial penalties for AIT disputes.  It’s hard to imagine what “barriers” could remain. The Throne Speech’s tough talk on inter-provincial trade may well just position the federal government to claim credit for what provincial governments were already doing.

I think that there is an opportunity to counterattack on this front. Provincial opposition parties should expose governments that publicly rejected TILMA but are now introducing some of that deal’s worst features through the back door.

For example, during the 2007 provincial election, Dalton McGuinty wrote, “We will not sign an agreement that would lower or would allow for the lowering of environmental, labour, health and safety standards for Ontario workers.” But by agreeing to “mutual recognition of occupational credentials between all provinces and territories,” he is indeed committing to lower Ontario’s standards to permit the minimum standard maintained by any other province or territory.

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