Premier Calls for Grand Bargain to Repair Economic Union


WINNIPEG – Premier Brian Pallister is seeking the support of fellow premiers for a proposal to address sustainable and predictable federal support for health care and the reduction of interprovincial trade barriers.

“Our commitment to a national vision has eroded over the past few decades. We have taken some small positive steps but we need to think bigger and move faster,” Pallister said. “We need leadership in order to rediscover the blueprint for Confederation.”

“I am proposing that we seek a commitment for stable federal health-care funding in return for our support for federal legislation establishing a Canadian economic union,” said Pallister. “Despite our best efforts, the current reality is that federal support for health care remains unacceptably low, and interprovincial trade barriers cost Canadians the equivalent of a seven per cent sales tax.”

Provincial and territorial premiers have recently made some modest progress on reducing trade barriers, but larger obstacles loom on the horizon, Pallister noted. We need to think much bigger in order to achieve the real results we all desire, he added.

The concept of a Canadian economic union was most recently summarized in a paper republished in 2017 by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, entitled Citizen of One, Citizen of the Whole. The discussion and proposal call for federal legislation to establish the principle of free flow of goods and services within Canada. Provinces would retain the ultimate responsibility for removing barriers that fall under exclusive provincial jurisdiction, but federal legislation would empower Canadians to challenge all barriers that obstruct their right to buy, sell, work and invest in every part of Canada.

“The grand bargain we envision with the federal government would allow us to pursue real nation building,” said Pallister. “In return, I would expect full federal recognition of paramount provincial responsibilities for health care, supported by sufficient federal commitments to sustainable and predictable health-care funding under full provincial or territorial control.”

Pallister added he looks forward to hearing the thoughts and feedback of his provincial and territorial colleagues.

“The status quo is the easiest thing in the world to support,” said Brian Lee Crowley, managing director at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. “That’s why Premier Pallister’s support of a grand bargain on health care and internal trade is so impressive.