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Interprovincial trade: Quebec is in last place, Alberta in first

Montreal, November 30, 2023 – Quebec is the Canadian jurisdiction that is most closed off to interprovincial trade, according to the most recent edition of the Montreal Economic Institute’s Internal Trade Provincial Leadership Index, released this morning.

“It shouldn’t be harder to transport goods between Calgary and Montreal than between Calgary and Medicine Hat,” explains Krystle Wittevrongel, senior policy analyst at the MEI and author of the study. “Unfortunately, we all pay the price for these barriers by paying more for the goods and services we consume.”

The MEI’s index ranks the provinces and territories based on the number of explicit exceptions to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement. The agreement, signed in 2017, aims to eliminate all barriers to trade between Canadian provinces and territories in the long run.

Quebec has 35 exceptions to the agreement, putting it in last place among Canadian provinces. Since the treaty came into effect, Quebec has not eliminated a single exception.

Alberta is ranked first, with only 6 exceptions remaining. While the province has not budged on the file over the past six years, the elimination of 21 of its exceptions soon after the agreement came into effect in 2017 allowed it to claim top spot.

“The efforts of Alberta, to lift itself up from one of the worst to the front of the pack in terms of interprovincial trade, are commendable,” adds Mrs. Wittevrongel. “Other Canadian provinces should follow its example and walk the walk by reducing these trade barriers.”

Since the last update of the index in 2021, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Yukon have reduced their number of exceptions to the agreement.

The provinces and territories are ranked as follows:

  1. Alberta
  2. Manitoba
  3. Saskatchewan
  4. British Columbia
  5. Nova Scotia
  6. Newfoundland and Labrador
  7. Northwest Territories
  8. Prince Edward Island
  9. Ontario
  10. Nunavut
  11. Yukon
  12. New Brunswick
  13. Quebec

The MEI study also notes the numerous barriers to labour mobility that exist between the provinces.

“While Alberta has shown the way by reducing its exemptions to the sale of goods and services between provinces, it has some work to do in terms of labour mobility,” explains Mrs. Wittevrongel. “It’s ridiculous that a nurse trained in Ontario, for example, has to retrain before treating a patient in Alberta.”

Alberta is the province with the most barriers to labour mobility, as measured by the number of professional exceptions to the agreement’s mobility rules.

On this point, Quebec is in the middle of the pack, and Nunavut is ranked first with no barriers to labour mobility.

The MEI study is available here.


The MEI is an independent public policy think tank with offices in Montreal and Calgary. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.

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