Stelmach Speaks to the Empire Club

Yesterday, the Premier of Alberta addressed the Empire Club in Toronto. He said some encouraging things about Our Fair Share: “We will get a fair economic rent on the development of our resources. In fact we have recently received the recommendations of the Royalty Review Panel that I established as one of my first acts as Premier.” I am not sure whether former Premier Klein would even have acknowledged the existence of economic rent. However, Stelmach’s statement that “Alberta provides energy security to Canadians” likely comes as news to the Parkland Institute.

The speech concluded with the usual bumf about supposed inter-provincial trade barriers:

. . . internal trade barriers reduce our competitiveness and pick the pockets of ordinary Canadians. They’re a hold-over from the 19th century, and have no place in the 21st.

Governments need to stop talking about internal free trade, and start implementing it. And in Alberta we’re doing just that.

As I’m sure many of you know, Alberta has entered into a landmark agreement with British Columbia — the Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, TILMA — to remove barriers between our two provinces.

The agreement creates the second-largest economic market in Canada. It will build on the prosperity in both provinces by giving businesses and workers seamless access to a larger range of opportunities. Frankly, TILMA should be a template for free trade within Canada.

Without naming any of these phantom barriers, the speech goes on to reject a national securities regulator, one of the few sensible proposals to enhance Canada’s economic union: “it is not in Alberta’s interest to relinquish our constitutional jurisdiction over local securities regulation.”

Apparently, reporters asked Stelmach to identify some barriers because today’s Globe and Mail reports, “The roadblocks that should be brought down include barriers to trade mobility, such as the certification of tradespeople and professionals, and transportation regulations, such as different size and weight restrictions on truck licences from province to province.”

Presumably, Stelmach does not regard “the certification of tradespeople and professionals” as a barrier. The issue is different standards in different provinces. TILMA’s “lowest common denominator” solution is to require that every province accept every other province’s standards, ensuring that the lowest standard anywhere becomes the minimum standard everywhere. The superior solution would be to expand the Red Seal program for tradespeople and continue working to establish compatible standards for the regulated professions.

Different size and weight restrictions for trucks are not an artificial barrier, but a necessary response to different terrain and road conditions in different provinces. In particular, provinces with more money to spend on highway maintenance (such as Alberta) allow larger and heavier trucks. Should poorer provinces be required to do likewise?

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