HALIFAX - Maritime neighbours Nova Scotia and New Brunswick say a move aimed at cutting red tape and harmonizing business regulations is a signal to Ottawa that they are serious about reviving their sputtering economies.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and New Brunswick's Brian Gallant said Tuesday that a joint office would be created to enable businesses to operate more efficiently between the provinces and to foster economic growth.
The pair signed a memorandum of understanding at the Halifax depot of regional trucking giant Armour Transportation Systems.
"Our goal is to make sure that goods and services and people can move freely among our provinces," said McNeil. "It absolutely makes no sense that this truck standing behind me has different regulations when we get to the border of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia."
Gallant said the initiative was part of what would be an "unprecedented level" of co-operation between the two provinces.
"Ensuring that we do a better job when it comes to red tape and normalizing regulations between the two provinces is a great step in the right direction," Gallant said.
He said it makes sense for smaller provinces to work together as their sluggish economies face the same challenges including budget deficits and aging populations.
The premiers released few details on the office, other than to say it would be staffed equally by government employees seconded from existing departments in the two provinces. Under the memorandum of understanding, the office will have a three-year mandate to reduce obstacles to business growth.
McNeil said he wants the federal government to recognize that the Atlantic region is moving to take responsibility for its own growth.
He pointed to previous agreements aimed at harmonizing training regimes and allowing apprentices to work across jurisdictions, adding that Ottawa could help further by lifting some of its restrictions in areas such as immigration.
"We'll take charge," McNeil said. "We'll set the table and the private sector will grow opportunities here."
Armour Transportation executive Ralston Armour said harmonizing regulations would benefit the operations of his company by helping it to move goods more efficiently.
As an example, Armour said the company can move dangerous goods through New Brunswick in trucks hauling double trailers, but it can't in Nova Scotia.
"There will be cost savings, but it's really going to make things easier for us," said Armour.