Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to rise tonight and participate in this adjournment debate. I want to follow up on a question that I first asked on February 12 in question period. At the time, I asked the question of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, who as members know is also the member for Papineau. Unfortunately, at the time he did not respond. Rather, the response came from the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. The question was on interprovincial trade. Challenges at that time were being experienced between our friends in Alberta and British Columbia. Members will recall that due to the British Columbia government's efforts to block the TMX, the Trans Mountain expansion, Alberta was threatening to ban the import of B.C. wine into Alberta.
As we know, the industry within Canada is greatly affected by trade barriers between our provinces. It falls on the Liberal government to finally take a stand to end trade barriers between our provinces. The challenges that are faced by provinces because of trade barriers account for up to $130 billion in lost economic activity. This all stems from the interpretation of the Constitution, section 121, which states:
All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.
Unfortunately, over the years, the interpretation of that section has been deemed to mean only tariffs. However, the reality is that non-tariff barriers between our provinces are having a significant impact on our economy.
In fact, the Liberal government's efforts to sign the Canadian free trade agreement were a failure. If we look at the CFTA, we find that the agreement itself is 353 pages long, yet 146 of those pages are exceptions that permit trade barriers to remain in place. They range on issues from mining to livestock medicine to timber processing to wine and beer. As I travel through my constituency and constituencies across this country, I get the opportunity to meet with small business owners. They may be distilleries or craft breweries, but they are small business owners who are trying their best to develop a product, develop a business, and to market it across the province and the country. In talking to some of these business owners, they tell me it is easier for them to import into the United States than into a neighbouring province. This is wrong.
In fact, Andrew Coyne of the National Post wrote about the failed efforts of the Liberals on interprovincial trade. He stated, “for all the attempts to paint the new Canadian Free Trade Agreement as a heroic achievement there was no disguising the fact that what the ministers were here to announce was a failure.”
Therefore, on February 12, as shadow secretary for interprovincial trade, I asked the government about its failed and poor record on interprovincial trade. In response, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development said, “we strongly advocate and support free trade among the provinces and territories.” Then he pointed to the Canadian free trade agreement as an example of this. However, as I have outlined, most of that was exceptions to the rule, and so poor was the Canadian free trade agreement on many of the issues that only two provinces have introduced legislation to ratify the CFTA.
I want to ask the government and the parliamentary secretary why they will not stand up for small businesses and tear down the trade barriers that are blocking our economic productivity.