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The Canadian Free Trade Agreement announced by the Federal Government on Friday will come into effect by 1st July. Though, there are some points that make the CFTA marginally better than Agreement on Internal Trade, which it will replace, it should not be confused with free trade.
The only improvement that CFTA offers is that it covers the national economy, giving provinces the benefit of shielding out specific sectors from their competitors. What make this agreement faulty are the small details.
Trade in alcohol is the biggest carve-out, which will be regulated under provincial monopolies of prohibition-era. Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) will still use the Soviet-era model for its alcohol distribution and Alberta will carry on with its out-of-province discriminatory tax treatment of craft beer.
Each province has submitted a 160 page schedule that shields their vital interest from neighbourly competition. The trade is not limited to industries such as energy, mining, forestry and agriculture. It also includes other interests such as Standard bred race horses of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishing guides.
Even national competition’s provincial procurement has new rules that are explained in 24 pages, which then proceeds to provincial exceptions explained in 25 pages.
The Father of Confederation expressed a different vision 150 years ago. They wanted all the provinces to join trade that would allow free interchange of products.
According to the Constitution Act of 1867, Section 121 said, “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces”.
These 29 words now seem to be loss in CFTA’s pettifogging 329 pages. It shows a different vision of jealousy, where politicians are crushing the nation’s dream with statute books.
Things might take a turn for the better if the case where Gerard Comeau travelled to New Brunswick after buying a beer in Quebec gets thrown out of the court.