Scheer vows internal free-trade deal as part of vision for stronger federation

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OTTAWA — If the Conservatives win the Oct. 21 federal election, Andrew Scheer says he’ll convene a first-ministers’ meeting within 100 days devoted to knocking down barriers to trade among Canada’s provinces.

The Conservative leader says he’ll also appoint an interprovincial-trade minister whose sole mandate will be negotiating a free-trade deal with the provinces.

Scheer says he’s talking about a formal, comprehensive agreement, negotiated by professionals, not just a memorandum of understanding.

Eliminating interprovincial trade barriers is part of Scheer’s vision for what he calls a “stronger and freer federation.”

He says a Scheer government would decentralize decision-making to the government closest to the people affected and respect provincial jurisdiction, but it would also take leadership in areas of sole federal jurisdiction, including internal trade and pipelines.

That’s in contrast to what he calls Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “my-way-or-the-highway federalism,” which Scheer says has stoked regional alienation, pitted provinces against each other and produced the coldest relations between federal and provincial governments in generations.