How goods are traded between provinces and what barriers exist will be the topic of debate at the province’s public accounts committee in the coming months.
The legislative standing committee met to discuss its work plan this week, and during the meeting, MLAs Allen Roach and Alan McIsaac, who were recently shuffled to the back bench from cabinet, came armed with plenty of ideas for the committee’s agenda.
McIsaac stressed that examining the province’s audited financial statements, also known as the “blue books” should be the committee’s No. 1 priority, which the committee agreed to by a unanimous vote.
He also said he felt internal trade should be a top priority for debate and examination.
Roach agreed, noting that much public discourse has been focused on trade concerns, including the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and, most recently, a spat between British Columbia and Alberta over wine and bitumen.
“I think we look at what’s taking place now between British Columbia and Alberta, that’s very disconcerting in terms of internal trade. I think it’s something that we, in this province, need to watch extremely carefully,” Roach said.
“If something suddenly happened, (if) we have (a) major product from Prince Edward Island that’s not moving… I think we need to have a really clear understanding of the impacts that could have on our province; financially, it could be crippling.”
Earlier this week, Alberta announced it was banning wine from British Columbia because of B.C.'s plans to limit the amount of diluted bitumen that can be shipped from its coast. This is putting the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project into jeopardy.
McIsaac says he believes internal trade is “one of the biggest issues right now.”
“The big issue still is we don’t understand ourselves all the impacts of internal trade,” he said.
“Let’s get some people in and straighten out the facts on that whole thing and see why we can or cannot trade internally on some commodities.”
The committee agreed to call in some experts to provide a briefing on the province’s work on trade and trade agreements.
The committee will also be examining housing needs across P.E.I., at the request of deputy speaker Kathleen Casey, as well as results-based performance reporting within government, at the request of Green MLA Hannah Bell.