Remarks by Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, at the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal


December 6, 2018
Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental and Nothern Affairs and Internal Trade

Good afternoon, and thank you, Michel, for that kind introduction. Allow me to begin by saying that it is a pleasure to be here with you today.

Tomorrow I will attend the First Ministers’ Meeting here in Montreal hosted by the Prime Minister—the first time it has been held in Quebec since 1964. Regardless of political stripe, we recognize that governments are, though perhaps in different ways, aiming for a common goal: making life better for their citizens.

Although disagreements garner much more attention, there are the dozens of examples every week where governments work well together productively. Since becoming Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade this summer, I am regularly in touch with my counterparts and seek to make progress on files that matter to Canadians.

I look forward to what will hopefully be productive discussions with provincial and territorial leaders tomorrow about how we can keep working together to create the right incentives to grow our economy, and create better jobs for Canadians.

We want to build on the progress that our government has already made over the last three years in building an economy that works for all Canadians, while holding true to our values of protecting the environment, seeking real reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and supporting our most vulnerable fellow citizens.

During the 2015 election campaign, we promised to bring real change, and I am happy to say that we are on course.

In the past three years, Canadians such as yourselves have created more than 550,000 new full-time jobs, bringing the unemployment rate down to its lowest point in 40 years. The economy is doing particularly well here in Quebec. The unemployment rate is one of the lowest in Canada at 5.8%, compared with 7% three years ago. Quebec is a true economic driver for Canada, with sectors such as artificial intelligence, aerospace and life sciences.

We know there are also challenges, especially with labour shortages across the province. I am in touch with Ministers Fitzgibbon and Jolin-Barrette, and our government will continue to work closely with the Government of Quebec on solutions that work for the economy and that ensure that those coming here to work are able to stay and make a meaningful contribution to Quebec society, so that Quebec can continue to be an economic leader.

Quebec is also a leader in the fight against climate change. Through a very successful cap-and-trade system, this province has placed a price on pollution for years now—and has seen significant economic growth during the same period. Quebec is a prime example of the fact that the economy and the environment can, and do, go hand-in-hand.

Although Canada’s economy is strong, we know that we cannot take the situation forgranted. There is still work to do.

Our Fall Economic Statement tabled in the House of Commons by Minister Morneau two weeks ago is the next step in our economic plan.

The Statement includes a number of proposals designed to stimulate investment by businesses. These changes include allowing the full cost of machinery and equipment used in the manufacturing and processing of goods to be written off immediately for tax purposes, and making specified clean energy equipment eligible for an immediate write-off of the full cost.

In addition, it introduces the Accelerated Investment Incentive, which allows businesses of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy to deduct a larger portion of expenditures on newly acquired property during the year in which the investment was made.

This means that, in general, businesses will be able to deduct almost three times the normal capital cost allowance in the first year.

These changes are important because these new deductions will make it more attractive to invest in assets that will help drive business growth. We know that businesses that invest create good jobs for the middle class and people working hard to join it.

The Fall Economic Statement also proposes to do more to modernize regulations in order to facilitate business growth.

Let’s be clear: regulations play an important role. They govern how businesses carry out their activities and play a key role in the protection of our environment and Canadians’ health and safety.

However, over time, regulations can become obsolete and be more of a burden to businesses, making Canada a less attractive place in which to invest and do business.

Nowhere is this clearer than in barriers to trade between the provinces and territories.

Trade between the provinces and territories makes up nearly 20% of Canada’s annual GDP, or $370 billion. Having regulatory alignment across the country, rather than a patchwork that changes as you cross each provincial border, would make expanding businesses easier.

For instance, eight provinces and territories require different types of first aid kits for workers. A truck approaching a provincial border may have to unload cargo to reduce weight before crossing because of differing regulations on weights and dimensions.

In recent years, our government has reached historic trade agreements with Europe, the United States, Mexico and a number of Pacific countries. During these negotiations, we discussed the importance of the free trade of goods and services, as well as its benefits for businesses and workers. These free trade agreements allow us to support the type of economic growth in Canada that creates jobs and maintains our prosperity. We are proud of our achievements, and we know that these trade agreements will strengthen both our economy and our middle class.

But we must take our own advice and adopt the same attitude in the way in which we deal with interprovincial trade in Canada. We must address the complex web of rules and regulations that hinder growth, increase costs and difficulties for businesses, and have a negative impact on middle-class families.

Reducing this burden is my primary objective as the Minister responsible for trade between the provinces and territories. I know from conversations with business leaders throughout the fall—including right here at the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal—that this is a priority for you too.

We recognize that this is a two-way street. The federal government has a role to play in the growth of the next generation of internationally competitive Canadian businesses. We must build on the progress we made when all 13 provinces and territories, along with the Government of Canada, signed the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in July 2017.

As a federal government, we are taking a leadership role: just last week, I was thrilled to announce progress in federal areas.

We have responded to challenges facing the construction industry and will be making the national building codes free, and our government will keep working with the provinces and territories toward the timely adoption of the national codes in a way that ensures that the needs of the provinces, territories and Canadians are met. Aligning building codes nationally will reduce costs for the construction industry and enable businesses to more easily bid on projects across provincial and territorial borders.

In Australia, a similar move led to economic benefits of up to a billion dollars annually. This is what I mean when I talk about the economic potential of enhanced trade between the provinces and territories. Small changes can have significant impacts.

We also announced last week that we are accelerating amendments to the Energy Efficiency Regulations for certain household appliances, so they align with the broader North American market.

We are also working to modernize meat inspection across the country, while maintaining strict health safeguards. And, through consultation, establishing a common definition for what can be labelled as “vodka” for sale across Canada, and determining what can be considered a “Product of Canada” to help producers better market their products across the country.

We have, and will continue to, make progress—and we hope that the provinces and territories take quick action as well.

I think that most of my provincial and territorial counterparts are on the same wave length in this respect, and that they are aware that diverse trade relations make our economy more prosperous. An increase in pan-Canadian trade relations will also make our country stronger.

This is not a partisan issue, nor should it be. We must overcome our differences: no one should place partisan politics before their constituents’ prosperity.

Like I said earlier, trade between the provinces and territories will be discussed at tomorrow’s First Ministers’ Meeting. Among files like the new NAFTA, and competitiveness, improving trade between the provinces and territories is on the agenda because we recognize the real opportunity before us to make our economy stronger and more interconnected by reducing the regulatory burdens on Canadian businesses.

We understand that, to strengthen our economy and create good jobs for the middle class, we must all—the federal government, as well as the provinces and territories—put our own house in order. Also, we need to foster a modern, efficient and effective economy and be prepared to seize opportunities opening up on the world stage.

Thank you.

Page details

Date modified: