As we watch the Brexit turmoil in Europe, Canadians might be tempted to feel pretty good about the economic and political stability here. However, Europe has managed to accomplish something we still haven’t figured out in Canada – developing a single economic market.
The greatest benefit of European Union membership is access to the single economic market comprised of all 28 member nations, which allows for the free movement of goods, capital and services between countries. Even those who led the victorious ‘leave’ campaign in the United Kingdom say they would like to maintain this privileged economic access to the European market.
Yet, over here, Canada remains a collection of 13 regional markets separated by a myriad of competing rules and standards that weakens economic growth by increasing costs and limiting choice for consumers, business and governments. It is astonishing that 28 independent countries can collectively lower the economic barriers between them while Canada has been unable to do so between 13 provinces and territories.
What’s even more astonishing is that Canada’s carefully-nurtured, archaic internal barriers will make it easier for foreign companies to do business in Canada than it is for Canadian companies. For example, once the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU is ratified, European companies could have better access to provincial procurements in Alberta than companies in other provinces would. And, because other jurisdictions may retaliate by blocking Alberta businesses, everyone loses. That’s what happens when governments forbid free and open competition: less choice.