10/15/2019 14:03 EDT

Scheer Says He'd Move On Free Trade Between Provinces Within 100 Days

"We are one free country, we should have one free market," he says.

QUEBEC —Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would meet premiers to push for a new interprovincial free-trade agreement within the first 100 days of taking office if he becomes prime minister.

“It should not be easier to trade with other countries than between Canadian provinces,” Scheer said. “We are one free country, we should have one free market.”

Scheer is campaigning in Quebec Tuesday, a province where he hopes to make significant gains in this federal election. Recent polls suggest the support Conservatives had in Quebec coming into the campaign has dropped in large part because of an increase in support for the Bloc Quebecois.

Scheer took pains Tuesday to try to push the Bloc back, alleging (as he did during last week’s leaders’ debates) that leader Yves-Francois Blanchet would work with the Parti Quebecois to resurrect separatism and push Quebec into another referendum.

Standing with most of his candidates in the Quebec City area, Scheer said the first ministers meeting on interprovincial trade would be on Jan. 6, 2020, with a view to setting a process for reviewing provincial trade regulations and laws that differ from each other.

One of the issues that happens far too often is products that are inspected and approved in one province have to be re-inspected and approved in another province before they can be sold there, Scheer said.

“When you talk to different manufacturers and producers of all different types of products, there are still many different hurdles,” he said.

The goal of the meeting would be to determine which ones are reasonable areas for provinces to protect, and which are just unnecessary barriers to interprovincial trade.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer responds to a question during a campaign stop in Quebec City on Tuesday. 

The last Conservative government started working with the provinces on the Canadian Free Trade Agreement in 2014, and the negotiations were completed and the agreement came into force under the Liberals in 2017. That agreement has a regulatory reconciliation process built into it.

Scheer cited an International Monetary Fund report that estimated interprovincial trade barriers cost Canada’s economy as much as $90 billion a year.

Some of the biggest struggles among provinces include acknowledging professional qualifications for workers and cross-provincial alcohol sales.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 15, 2019.