Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer speaks in Toronto, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. If the Conservatives win the Oct. 21 federal election, Andrew Scheer says he’ll convene a first ministers’ meeting within 100 days devoted to knocking down barriers to trade between Canada’s provinces. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Scheer vows to make free trade between provinces a reality if Conservatives elected

Scheer says he’ll leave power in the hands of smaller governments

Andrew Scheer is promising that a Conservative government would negotiate a deal to eliminate trade barriers among Canada’s provinces.

The Conservative leader made the commitment Tuesday as he outlined his vision for “a stronger and freer federation” — one that is more decentralized and respectful of provincial jurisdiction in contrast to what he labelled as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s divisive, arrogant, top-down, “my-way-or-the-highway federalism.”

If the Conservatives win the Oct. 21 federal election, Scheer said he’ll appoint an interprovincial-trade minister whose sole mandate would be negotiating a comprehensive, formal free-trade deal with the provinces. And he said he’d convene a first-ministers’ meeting within 100 days devoted to that subject.

“I am not talking about a simple memorandum of understanding,” Scheer said during a speech in Edmonton.

“The interprovincial free trade agreement will be a real free trade deal, like NAFTA, like CETA, like the TPP … It will be a huge step forward, well beyond the current agreement.”

The previous Conservative government began negotiations with the provinces on what eventually became the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, which went into force in 2017. But Scheer said there’s nothing free about it since it includes 130 pages of exemptions and Trudeau “hasn’t lifted a finger to fix it.”

Trudeau last July appointed Dominic LeBlanc to the post of intergovernmental affairs and internal trade minister, mandated specifically to fully exercise federal jurisdiction over trade and commerce to eliminate barriers, working in collaboration with the provinces. Trudeau hosted a first ministers’ meeting last December that was supposed to focus primarily on internal trade, but he was forced by hostile premiers — notably Ontario’s Doug Ford, who is one of Scheer’s most ardent allies — to expand the agenda to include a host of other provincial priorities.

In the end, first ministers agreed to only a few modest steps towards freer interprovincial trade: harmonizing standards in the trucking sector, including tire size and size and weight restrictions, and eliminating duplication in federal and provincial food safety regimes.

But Scheer argued that with conservative-minded, “free enterprise, pro-trade” premiers now ensconced in seven provinces, Canada has a “once-in-a-generation opportunity … to fix this economic injustice once and for all.”

Scheer was introduced by his newest provincial ally, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, for the fourth of five major policy speeches the federal leader is giving to set the stage for this fall’s election campaign. He devoted much of his speech to lambasting Trudeau for imposing a carbon tax on provinces that refuse to put their own price on carbon emissions. Along with his policies on environmental assessments for pipeline projects and other measures, Scheer accused Trudeau of wanting to phase out the West’s natural resources industry and put thousands out of work.

“Trudeau’s carbon tax is a betrayal of Confederation’s early promise. The discord he has sown has prompted an unprecedented number of legal actions against his government from provinces frustrated at his over-reaching” into provincial jurisdiction over natural resources, Scheer said.

He contended that Trudeau has ”stoked regional alienation” and pitted region against region, threatening the country’s national unity.

“It’s clear that every time there’s a Trudeau in the Prime Minister’s Office, our union begins to crack,” Scheer said. “I’m here to say unequivocally that Canada has not turned its back on the West. Justin Trudeau has.”

By contrast, Scheer said he’d foster a decentralized federation, in which decision-making would be done by the smallest government closest to the people affected and in which the federal government would respect provincial jurisdiction. He promised that a Scheer government would provide stable, predictable funding for health care and other social services while allowing the provinces to decide how best to manage and deliver those programs.

Still, Scheer promised a Conservative government would provide strong leadership on matters within exclusive federal jurisdiction, where the national interest is at stake and where provinces disagree — such as on pipelines and the elimination of internal trade barriers.

He reiterated his plan to create a coast-to-coast, national energy corridor to move Quebec hydro electricity west and the West’s oil and gas east. He acknowledged it would entail “a great deal of dialogue with provincial governments and Indigenous populations” and take “a lot of work.” And in French, Scheer said it would not be done against the wishes of one or more provinces, which could well make it impossible to achieve.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has categorically ruled out supporting a new pipeline through his province.

In a statement, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Scheer’s latest speech “is yet another example of the Conservatives misrepresenting what our government has already done, while over-promising on things that they know they can’t deliver for Canadians.”

Morneau also questioned why Scheer made no promise to meet annual with premiers, as Trudeau has done, or to meet regularly with Indigenous leaders.

READ ALSO: Scheer removes MP from justice committee over comments quoting Christchurch shooter

READ ALSO: Scheer vows to end ‘illegal’ border crossings as part of immigration policy plan

READ ALSO: Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘Best in the country’: Formerly homeless man praises Victoria’s outreach services

Jay W. was living on the streets of downtown Victoria in 2018

City of Victoria plans workshop to determine fate of Sir John A. Macdonald statue

Conversations will happen as part of a reconciliation dialogue series in May 2020

Years of ‘horrific, violent accidents’ at Thetis Lake prompt plea to public

View Royal fire chief asks for an end to alcohol consumption at busy park

Islanders have new cancer screening option with $6.5 M diagnostic suite in Victoria

The Gordon Heys Family PET/CT Suite was unveiled at the BC Cancer Centre-Victoria

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted in murder of Saanich couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Police ask for help locating missing men last seen in South Surrey

Jeep that Richard Scurr and Ryan Provencher were in has been located unoccupied in Logan Lake: RCMP

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

Most Read