By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says the federal government needs to look at its own trade barriers instead of focusing on the provinces.
Pallister says recent statements by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Internal Trade Minister Dominic LeBlanc have dealt mainly with interprovincial trade barriers.
Pallister says the federal government needs to admit its own regulations are part of the problem.
For example, he says, a small meat-processing company in Carman, Man., is hoping to sell kosher products in other provinces, but faces onerous federal regulations.
Pallister also says the federal government is proposing new laws that will add regulatory requirements and drive down investment in the resource and fisheries sectors.
Pallister says he is hoping for discussion on the issue at a first ministers conference next week in Montreal.
“The first step is — admit you’ve got a problem. In the Bill Morneau (fall economic) statement, he admitted the provinces had a problem. He didn’t say anything about the federal problem,” Pallister said Friday.
The federal government also has more exemptions under the Canada Free Trade Agreement for procurement than any province, Pallister said.
LeBlanc said the federal government has already taken steps to cut trade barriers, and more work is underway.
“These actions include working to harmonize meat inspection while maintaining strict health safeguards, and aligning federal energy efficiency regulations for household appliances so they align with the broader North American market,” LeBlanc said in a written statement.
New food rules will take effect in January that will “allow industry flexibility in selecting innovative, cost effective, and appropriate controls to achieve federal food safety outcomes”, says a release from LeBlanc’s office.
The federal government is also reviewing the requirements for food products to be labelled as made in Canada, so that they will be uniform across the country.
Pallister said the provinces are making progress on some of their own issues. At a premiers’ meeting last summer, he called for an end to limits on interprovincial transportation of alcohol for personal use.
The provinces are also moving closer to adopting similar trucking regulations such as required tire sizes, Pallister said Friday.
Manitoba is currently reviewing some of its own regulations in the energy sector. The Progressive Conservative government recently announced a review of the tax and royalty regime for oil and gas, with the aim of making it less cumbersome for companies.
Pallister hinted the review might lead to lower taxes and royalties if other jurisdictions are deemed to have an advantage.
“Because we have an industry in Saskatchewan that’s doing the same thing that an industry in southwest Manitoba is doing, and why are the rules different — and if they are different, and that’s pushing investment across to Saskatchewan at the expense of Manitoba — then we’d have to have a look at that too.”