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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Struggling to afford rent, Sylvia Bailey is hoping to trade her love of cooking for some more affordable accommodation. (Photo courtesy of Sylvia Bailey)
Retired Victoria woman looking to cook, clean or garden in exchange for rent

Sylvia Bailey is hoping to use her love for cooking to help afford rent

Victoria police are searching for a suspect after a stabbing Monday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police searching for suspect in late-night stabbing

Victim taken to hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries

Panthers’ Captain Tanner Wort faces Tory McClintick of the Victoria Cougars during Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action Friday night at Panorama Recreation Centre. The Panthers lost 3-0, then lost 7-2 Sunday. (Gordon Lee/Submitted)
Peninsula Panthers’ losing streak reaches four games as injuries mount

Injuries have especially hurt the team’s backline with only four defenders available

The drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Island Health opens COVID-19 testing site at UVic

As with all other sites, an appointment is needed to receive a test

Thousands filled Centennial Square in June for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Black Press Media file photo)
Survey seeks input on racism in Greater Victoria

Confidential answers to inform work with immigrants and marginalized people

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks in Georgia Strait

Pod spotted between Comox and Texada Island

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

The voting station mimicked a real voting station in Nicole Choi’s classroom at Chilliwack middle school on Oct. 22, 2020, where students had to show their ID (student cards), be checked off a list, and mark a secret ballot behind a screen. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. students choose NDP majority in mock election

More than 90,000 youth took part in school-based election process

Crew transport bus at the Trans Mountain pipeline project work site in Burnaby, March 2020. (Trans Mountain)
Check your workplace COVID-19 safety plans, Dr. Henry urges

Masks in public spaces, distance in lunchrooms for winter

B.C.’s Court of Appeal is in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Judgment reserved in Surrey Six slayings appeals

Six men were killed in suite 1505 of the Balmoral Tower in Whalley on Oct. 19, 2007

Kelowna City Hall has been vandalized overnight. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna City Hall hit by anti-pandemic vandalism

Graffiti condemning the virus appears overnight on City Hall

FILE – A woman smokes a marijuana joint at a “Wake and Bake” legalized marijuana event in Toronto on October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Home nurse visits could play big role in reducing cannabis use, smoking in young mothers

The program, dubbed the BC Healthy Connections Project, involves public health nursing home visits

Most Read