Only Ottawa can tear down barriers between Canadians: Think tank proposes
Economic Charter of Rights

OTTAWA, June 21 /CNW Telbec/ - The Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a new non-partisan Ottawa think tank, today issued a study, "Citizen of One, Citizen of the Whole", calling on the federal government to use its constitutional authority to strike down internal barriers to free trade and mobility within Canada. The key proposals of the study call for the legislation of an Economic Charter of Rights for Canadians and the creation of an Economic Freedom Commission. The Commission would have the power to investigate breaches of the Economic Charter on its own initiative or in response to citizens' complaints.

The proposal is written by Robert H. Knox, a leading expert on internal trade barriers in Canada who served as Executive Director of the Internal Trade Secretariat in the early 1990s, Brian Lee Crowley, Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, and John Robson, Managing Editor of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. The authors provide a dynamic assertion of economic freedom for Canadians and a vindication of the vision of the Fathers of Confederation that Canada should be one economic space. A number of prominent Canadians have indicated their support for the recommendation that the federal government enact an Economic Charter and establish an Economic Freedom Commission.

In releasing "Citizen of One", Brian Lee Crowley said "The people who founded Canada were convinced that creating an immense internal free market, spanning the North American continent, would not merely bring us prosperity but give us a firm sense of nationhood. The ongoing failure of governments to make that vision a reality has made us poorer. It has also undermined national unity, helping to turn us from fellow citizens into strangers who are suspicious of each other."

Robert Knox added, "We believe that releasing this study on the eve of the G8 and G20 Summits in Canada underscores the paradox that, as Canada advocates freer global trade to offset the impact of the recession, and as we seek to make NAFTA even more effective in lowering continental trade barriers, we do not always practise what we preach at home."

Knox, Crowley and Robson point out that while internal barriers to the free movement of goods, services, labour and capital have almost no principled defence, they proliferate in such petty profusion that no one studying the issue has ever even tried to list them all. Various estimates of their economic cost are necessarily imprecise, but confirm that they are harmful.

The authors also show that, when Confederation was debated and ratified, the federal government was clearly given the power to prevent or remove such barriers, for the sake of our common citizenship as well as our wallets. They demonstrate that the jurisprudence around the issue is strikingly clear: The federal government, while fully respecting legitimate provincial jurisdictions, has undoubted authority to remove barriers whose main goal or impact is protectionist interference with Canadians' economic freedom. And they show that alternative approaches involving interprovincial negotiation, with or without the federal government, have failed to deliver the benefits individual Canadians need and deserve.

"Our proposal is good for all Canadians and good for their governments," Crowley said. "It means greater prosperity, a stronger sense of nationhood, and a clearing of the cluttered agenda of provincial and territorial governments. It is an idea whose time has come."

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is the only non-partisan, independent national public policy think tank based in Ottawa that focuses on the full range of issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Copies of the full report are available by request or can be downloaded at


For further information: For further information: or to arrange interviews with the authors, please contact the Director of Communications, George Young, at; or Stephanie Delorme, at, or (613) 482-8327

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