Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has thrown his weight behind the Western Canada Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association call for all western provinces to allow the free, unfettered flow of goods and services across their borders.
The premier notes he has heard concerns that Saskatchewan is using ‘local preference’ clauses in its tender and construction contract documents to give its resident companies advantage – awarding bid assessment points for employing local labour – in bidding on public infrastructure work.
The WCR&HCA wrote to the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba premiers, asking they reassert their commitments made in signing the New West Partnership Trade Agreement to remove all barriers to cross-border trade and movement of labour.
“I am personally focused on this issue and have raised these concerns at every opportunity with my fellow Premiers,” Kenney says in a June 10 letter to the WCR&HCA. “Alberta takes its commitments under both the New West Partnership Trade Agreement and the Canadian Free Trade Agreement seriously, and I have urged other provinces to do the same.”
Chris Lorenc, president of the WCR&HCA, said the association appreciates Kenney’s reply and his intent to pursue the issue with his fellow premiers. Premier Brian Pallister has stated on a number of occasions that Manitoba stands behind its trade agreement obligations and has encouraged all provinces to hold to their obligations.
Kenney expressed reluctance to adopt retaliatory actions – because they tend to entrench trade disputes and the negative consequences that flow from them – but noted companies encountering discriminatory trade practices can use the bid protest mechanisms within trade agreements to push back.
“We think the most productive route remains the political pressure and persuasion premiers can bring to bear on their counterparts and so the WCR&HCA will continue to urge they do that, at any occasion in which premiers meet,” Lorenc said. The WCR&HCA agrees that retaliatory actions would be counterproductive in the long-term.