Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


October 20, 2014

Removing provincial barriers to inter-provincial trade

S. Simpson: I thank the member for Shuswap for introducing this issue. I’m pleased to get up and have an opportunity to make a few comments in regard to the question of internal trade and the question of how we do business in this province with other provinces across the country.

The member talks about the wine industry. I think we’re all in agreement that we would love the opportunity for everybody else in this country to enjoy the fabulous wines that are produced in British Columbia, which are world-class by anybody’s standards, and that there should be a greater opportunity for that to happen. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that. I could say the same thing about craft beer. You’d say the same thing about a number of other products. All of that is good, and we do need to get there and make that happen. I’m very supportive of looking at how we do that.

But we also know that in all trade agreements, whether they be an internal trade agreement for Canada or they be international trade agreements, the devil is always in the details of these. That’s what we need to look at hard. There are instances, I believe, where there could be challenges to business in British Columbia — challenges that need to be addressed.

I would hope that as this discussion goes forward, there will be a meaningful consultation, as there should be — with business people, with consumers, with others in British Columbia —about the implications of significant changes around trade.

We want those changes to be beneficial. We want those changes to be supportive of B.C. business and of B.C. consumers, and we want them to be fair and balanced for everybody in the country. I believe there needs to be a conversation here not just among governments but among the people in the province, too, so that there’s the opportunity to get increased input into what makes sense as we look at a change or a liberalization of those.

The other thing we see — and we see this in the international agreements — is that we’re now starting to see some push-back. We saw with the agreement with Europe, between Canada and Europe, the concerns raised by Germany. We know there are similar concerns now being expressed by some governments around the NAFTA agreement. This is the question around what the role of corporations is, their ability to challenge government public policy and their ability to do that in ways that are less than transparent — to challenge in those ways. A rethink is going on, in many cases, that that’s not something that the governments should necessarily want to be able to occur.

It appears that’s the concern that Germany, certainly in the European-Canadian discussions, has been raising — and other countries in the European Union — about whether in fact that’s something they want to see.

So what I would say to the member is that I’m glad he raised this issue. I think internal trade is a legitimate issue. It needs to be addressed. We do want to broaden the opportunities here, but it is about the detail. It is important that British Columbians are able to be part of that discussion — not just governments but British Columbians —and that input be available and that we all understand that before those deals are finalized.

I would urge the member, if he’s speaking to the Premier or speaking to the appropriate members of cabinet who will be advancing this discussion, that he encourage some level of engagement with the broader public and with consumers, in addition, of course, to consultation with the business community, who obviously have a keen interest in this.

I think there’s a positive here. There’s a win here to be had. But if we don’t do this properly, if we don’t do it carefully and if we do it in a way that’s simply ideological, we’re going to find at the end of the day, I think, that we have misstepped, and we’re going to be going back trying to correct errors. We all know that we’re better off to try to get this right now rather than to make errors now and go back and try to correct them, because we always know it’s harder to correct things after the fact than it is to get it right the first time out of the gate.

Again, my thanks to the member for raising the issue. But we really do need to make sure that the interests of British Columbians are protected, as well as fairness and a level playing field for all Canadians so that, among other things, all of those people in Manitoba and Ontario and Quebec can enjoy all of that fabulous wine we produce throughout British Columbia. They may have the odd product in other parts of the country that we’d be interested in here too. I’m sure of that. That would be good.

I look forward to the member’s close on this issue, and I look forward to a further discussion around this as we move forward.

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