Two provinces sealing an agreement could make it more difficult for other provinces to sign on, says Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies.

Mr. Cirtwill was referring to an agreement signed Tuesday between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that is expected to harmonize some regulations, create consistent requirements for business and make professional and trade credentials transferrable between the two provinces.

AIMS, a public policy think-tank, has long pushed for elimination of all interprovincial trade barriers in Canada for a long time.

” Our big worry about this type of relationship is when two provinces agree, it makes it that much more difficult for those two provinces to then join with a third,” Mr. Cirtwill said Tuesday.

“Now you’ve got the TILMA in the West. You’ve got this here. We’ve got Ontario and Quebec talking about it. These kind of bilateral things tend to make it more difficult to achieve national agreements,” he said.

TILMA is the trade, investment and labour mobility agreement between Alberta and British Columbia that came into effect in 2007. That deal, which other provinces have been invited to sign, allows for the free movement of goods and services between the two provinces.

Tuesday’s agreement does not seem to go very far, and some parts of the agreement are unclear, Mr. Cirtwill said.

“There are some interesting ideas in here . . . the suggestions around the potential of a single electricity market with a single system operator. Those are very interesting words, but right now, it is 40 words in a little square box, so you don’t really know what that means.”

The Canadian Labour Congress has opposed such agreements, which it says serve to erode labour standards, consumer protection and environment regulations. Paulette Sadoway, Atlantic regional director of the Canadian Labour Congress, had not had a chance to read the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick agreement but said, “I’m not sure what trade barriers exist . . . that would require a whole agreement.”

She said the labour congress will be monitoring the agreement to watch for any downgrading of regulations that could hurt consumers and workers.

Several industry groups seemed happy with the new agreement.

The idea of utilizing only one set of weigh scales at the border for commercial vehicle enforcement was given a thumbs-up by the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.

“This does not lessen enforcement in any way and also saves on time and fuel . . . by having trucks make only one stop within a short period of time and distance,” said Peter Nelson, the association’s executive director.

Mr. Nelson said the association also welcomes standardization of permit regulations for long combination vehicles (cabs pulling two or more trailers) and oversized loads.

“The LCV configuration is important to economic growth and makes our region competitive by allowing access to this mode of moving freight into and out of our region,” he said.

The agreement is also aimed at allowing easier movement of trained workers between the two provinces.

“We are not big provinces. We don’t have huge populations, so to me, sharing our labour and basically standardizing (regulations) makes sense,” said Paul Pettipas, chief executive officer of the Nova Scotia Home Builders’Association.

Harmonization of licensing for security guards will be dealt with right away under the new agreement.

“There is a bit of licensing difference between the two provinces. . . . It is beneficial to have it all aligned, that’s for sure, “Geoff Fleming, a spokesman for Source Security and Investigations in Halifax. The company has offices throughout Atlantic Canada and often sends security guards from one province to another for special events.