An international poll being published this week at the onset of the G-8 and G-20 twin summits in Toronto suggests that one of Canada's greatest failures is as a world trading partner.
It seems the key impediments are in large measure within our own borders because provinces and territories are often at protectionist logger-head over such basic issues as trade, professional and worker qualifications. Let alone the free flow of products and services from one province into one, or out of another.
For instance the Minister of Transportation, John Baird, was in Michigan last month making a very public case to take down the barriers to allow construction of a new bridge to promote trade between Windsor and Detroit. But; a bottle of Moose Head Beer brewed in New Brunswick is still being sold (if at all) west of the Quebec border as a premium "imported" lager. Just last week, Newfoundland's Premier was accusing neighbouring Quebec of..."thwarting growth across Eastern Canada" over yet another decision involving the transmission of hydro generated power into the United States market. So it goes: But, just how should we expect our international trade efforts to be recognized and succeed if in a nation of just 30 million we can't settle internal trading issues amongst our own ten provinces.
I have just returned from four or five days of business related travel into southern portions of New Brunswick, the province where I was born. Lest I digress; in these first warm days of this 2010 summer, I was struck by the verdant green colours of the "Picture Province's" vast pine and spruce forests devastated during my childhood by the rampant dreaded "Spruce Budworm" which had turned the millions of acres of forested regions into dull brown dead overgrowth.
Viewed from my Ontario perspective where I have lived for just about 30 years, I confess to having difficulty with the concept of a reality whereby none of the four Atlantic Provinces has a population greater than the single National Capital Region of Ottawa/Gatineau, the twin cities where I reside. In fact, New Brunswick's own population of 750,000 is about the same as the single industrial southern Ontario city of Hamilton. Yet as a province it's tax and rate payers are encumbered with supporting and maintaining the reality, infrastructures, costs and every other elements of a full fledged partner (in fact an original partner) of Canada's 143 year-old nationhood. In the cold light of modern economic realism, this may not make much sense.
Out west; Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia have been taking a hard look at their own not dis-similar situation. Earlier this spring (in late April), they announced the "New West Partnership" agreement which will create Canada's biggest inter provincial barrier-free trade and investment market. Not only does the effort combine the strength of the economies of the three provinces but a couple of the partnership's keystone elements include a procurement agreement whereby the western provinces have combined their buying power; as well as an international co-operation agreement which launched four week's ago when Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. essentially took over responsibility for their own business dealings with China, the world's fastest growing economy, by opening a trade and investment office in Shanghai, China's financial capital.
By contrast, Prince Edward Island's effort this summer will be to spend a million dollars to host the syndicated "Regis and Kelly" American television morning gabfest for two or three days in Charlottetown in mid-July...Newfoundland's Premier Danny Williams blames the greed, arrogance and entitlement displayed by his neighbour (Quebec) for milking Newfoundland dry over the infamous Churchill Falls hydro agreement signed 41 years ago...and which should have long ago been either forgotten or relegated to the pile of learned experiences along with Brian Peckford's hydroponic cucumber operations; The so-called Newfoundland "pickle palace" of the 1980's.
There's hope still for our Atlantic Provinces. Perhaps a good first step would be to work with (and on) the synergies, infrastructures and projects which unite them rather than with economic realities which are no bigger than most of Quebec and Ontario's main cities.