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Jul 12, 2023

CFIB report shows another year of mediocre grades

An overwhelming majority of small business owners (88%) are calling on Canada's governments to remove barriers to the flow of goods, services, and workers between provinces and territories, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)'s second iteration of its State of Internal Trade: Canada's Interprovincial Cooperation Report Card.

"As the Council of the Federation meets in Winnipeg this week, addressing internal trade barriers must be a top priority. It is ridiculous that Canadians are still unable to order and ship Canadian alcohol products from other provinces, purchase meat that was inspected in another province, or work in multiple provinces without navigating excessive hurdles," explained Corinne Pohlmann, Executive Vice-President of Advocacy for CFIB. "If workers could seamlessly move between provinces and territories, imagine the positive impact we could make, particularly in sectors like healthcare where labor shortages persist. This isn't just beneficial for businesses, it's a win for all Canadians."

The report card evaluates governments across three key areas: exceptions to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), select barriers to internal trade, and the implementation status of reconciliation agreements. Overall grades range from some disappointing "D"s to some commendable "B"s and just one A-, with some individual area grades being higher.

The report card highlights a bold recommendation for eliminating barriers: mutual recognition of all provincial and territorial regulatory standards, except for those included in an exemption list. For example, if a business meets health and safety standards in their home province, those standards should be recognized by any other province or territory. This can be achieved through unilateral action or as a collective effort.

"Enough excuses. There never seems to be a good time for governments to prioritize reducing internal trade barriers," concluded Pohlmann. "With labor shortages becoming increasingly pressing and costs mounting from every level of government, Canadians cannot afford this slow, incremental progress. Mediocrity is no longer acceptable, which is why governments must move forward with mutual recognition."

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