Canadian Conservative leader promises to promote internal trade

FILE PHOTO: Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer pledged on Tuesday to allow provincial governments more decision-making power and to eliminate all barriers to internal trade if elected in the October national election.

Scheer holds a slender lead on Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in opinion polls about five months ahead of the vote.

“A Conservative government will not take an adversarial, top-down approach,” Scheer said in Edmonton, Alberta, in the fourth of five promised policy speeches. “Instead, we will work together with provinces, cities and other partners.”

Scheer promised an “interprovincial trade agreement” similar to those done with the European Union or other international trade partners “in the spirit of open federalism, with nothing more than the basic promise of greater prosperity bringing all parties to the table.”

Differences in provincial regulations cost the economy as much as C$130 billion ($97 billion) a year, Canada’s Senate estimated in a 2016 report.

Voters have elected three right-leaning provincial premiers over the past year in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. Scheer is hoping their success rubs off. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney introduced Scheer on Tuesday.

Trudeau has been in conflict with some provincial leaders because of a federal carbon pricing scheme he imposed on provinces that refused to introduce their own carbon-reduction plans. At least three of the provinces are challenging the “carbon tax” in court.

Scheer also promoted an idea he launched in a previous speech for a national energy corridor and a plan to make Canada energy independent by 2030.

“I will push ahead with a transformative corridor project that will both unite our people and liberate our resources,” he said. “By creating the regulatory path, multi-billion projects can be built without taxpayers’ money.”

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney