Brian Lee Crowley

Internal trade: Ottawa has the power and duty to act

One of the things that has always struck me about Canada is that whatever powers the provinces have must be respected without question and if they exercise them everyone rushes to say that no one should interfere with their legitimate powers. But let Ottawa have the temerity to want to act in an area of its own clear jurisdiction, everyone rushes to say that no one should act precipitously, that the Canadian Way is consultation, that the provinces might be offended by Ottawa flexing its muscles, etc., etc., etc.

I say rubbish. We really only created one new thing in 1867, and that was a national parliament and a national government with the power to create a nation out of the colonies and territories that had hitherto been spread across British North America. The Fathers of Confederation were explicit that one key objective was the creation of a single unified national economic space, the removal of barriers between provinces, to make, in George Brown’s phrase, “a citizen of one citizen of all.” To achieve this they gave Ottawa strong powers, including the Trade and Commerce power.

We have been talking for years now about eliminating those barriers, barriers Canada was created to sweep away in 1867. It should be clear by now that asking the provinces to do it is a failed strategy. Indeed the only question to ask is why in God’s name we ever thought that provinces, who are in competition with each other for investment and jobs, would ever voluntarily relinquish the barriers they created to give them an advantage in that competition. It is time to let Ottawa be Ottawa, as the founders of Canada intended. Read all about it in my column for today’s ROB in the Globe. Then read MLI’s paper “Citizen of One, Citizen of All” for the full argument…

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Brian Lee Crowley