Applied Business History

30 04 2016

As readers of this blog will know, last August I was an expert witness at a constitutional court case in Canada that dealt with the issue of free trade between the provinces. Drawing on my business-historical research into the economic motivation for  Confederation, I argued that the creators of the Canadian constitution wanted unfettered free trade between the provinces. At the time of the trial, I blogged about my experiences.

On Friday morning, local time, the judge in the case issued his ruling. He supported the view that the creators of the Canadian constitution wanted free trade between the provinces. This ruling, which applies to the case of one man and his beer, has considerable implications for the many interprovincial trade barriers that still fetter the Canadian economy. For press coverage of the judge’s ruling, see here, here, and here.

I don’t normally read the comments in newspaper stories, but I made an exception to this rule and looked at the readers’ comments on the Globe and Mail‘s article about the ruling. I’ve reposted a few of the comments here. Virtually all of the comments I saw supported the decision, but people were arguing in favour of it on very different  political, economic, and historical grounds. Some readers noted that the persistence of internal trade barriers in Canada is incongruous given that the country has free trade agreements with the US, Mexico, the EU, etc. As someone who does research on how people use the past to make sense of the present, I was particularly interested to see how readers were linking Confederation to the court case and the economic issues it raised.
r408 wrote

Interprovincial trade barriers (to incude our fragmented securities regulators) cost the national economy billions per year.

Hopefully this will also start to reduce the nanny state, monopolistic and prohibition era style provincial liquor system.

monkey121 wrote

Good to hear, finally bringing Canada into the 20th century (yes I know it’s the 21st century but our liquor laws are more 19th century). The idea of any type of barriers within a country makes zero sense. Barriers between countries are debatable, but there is absolutely zero reason to have them within. The fact there are fewer restrictions on bringing in booze from the US than across provincial lines is scandalous.

Byron Mcquay wrote
It took us 150 years to realize we have free trade within Canada? Its about bloody time the marketing boards (dairy in particular) gets some competition from across the country. As for alcohol, – well if pot is going to be legal across the country, it made no sense in why we couldn’t buy each others alcohol. Lets start challenging all these archaic pieces of legislation.

Rocheda wrote
We enjoy free trade with mexico, the states, soon europe, tpp soon, etc. frankly as ONE country how have we become so small minded and protectionist ? A good quality product will make its way.
Time for change.

















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