On December 6, the federal Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Dominic LeBlanc, spoke at the Chamber for the first time.
Domestic trade is a very important issue in Canada. It represents 20% of the country’s annual GDP and poses many challenges, particularly when it comes to creating an environment that is both conducive to trade and respects the areas of provincial jurisdiction.
For Quebec businesses, the domestic market is vast and lucrative, with interprovincial trade exceeding exports to the United States by $12 billion in 2015. Canada adopted the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) to update the regulation of internal trade in 2017. As the Minister pointed out, the economy prospers more when our trading relationships are diversified, and this process starts with our own domestic market.
Here are three key points from Dominic LeBlanc’s speech at the Chamber.
The labour shortage: a collective challenge
Minister LeBlanc highlighted the creation of 550,000 full-time jobs over the past three years across the country, which helped reduce the unemployment rate to its lowest level in 40 years.
Despite this, the country is experiencing a problematic labour shortage, a situation which is concerning for the city’s businesses.
Dominic LeBlanc plans to work closely with Quebec’s Minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, and Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness, Simon Jolin-Barrette, to put solutions in place. Mr. LeBlanc would like these measures to encourage those who come to the province for work to stay and make more significant contributions to Quebec society so that the province remains an economic leader in Canada.
Important changes to come
Minister LeBlanc recognizes that some domestic trade regulations could become obsolete and that the regulatory burden on business could increase, making Canada a less attractive country for investment and business. He identified three issues that the new regulation aims to make significant progress on: the building code, interprovincial trucking, particularly with respect to the weight and size of shipments, and the agri-food industry. The Minister noted that these are small changes that could generate significant economic progress.
For example, the National Building Code will be provided free of charge to construction contractors. The government will also harmonize provincial building codes as soon as possible. This will reduce the costs of many businesses, which collectively spend up to $8 million a year to obtain the National Building Code, and will also allow them to bid for projects beyond their provincial boundaries.
However, it is also important for the minister and the government not to interfere with areas of provincial jurisdiction in the drafting of new rules governing internal trade.
The challenge of online sales of Canadian alcohol
One of the most sensitive interprovincial trade issues relates to alcohol. This is a situation that is slowly moving forward, admits Minister LeBlanc. According to him, Canadians expect to have access to Canadian products online.
The Minister says an electronic payment system established and managed by the federal government could be created soon to give consumers more access while ensuring that provinces can collect sales tax. This issue was on the agenda of the December 7 meeting between Justin Trudeau and the premiers of the country’s provinces and territories.