In Brief: Atlantica is happening all around the region and represents the opportunity to enhance economic development through better market access and reduced trade barriers. This article from the Halfiax Daily News echoes AIMS research on the topic. 

By Andrea MacDonald

If you’re waiting to see whether Atlantica comes to fruition, proponents will say it already exists.

Loosely defined, it’s an economic region encompassing the Atlantic Provinces, the northeastern United States and eastern Quebec – tied together by a common history and existing trade patterns. Atlantica proponents want to capitalize on the region’s geographic position at the centre of one of the world’s major global trading routes, renewing the northeast as the epicentre of trade between the NAFTA partners, Europe and Asia.

Beginning tomorrow, Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce and the Nova Scotia Chambers of Commerce will host the three-day 2007 Atlantica Conference in Halifax. Groups like those argue that expanding Atlantica will mean greater access and lower costs for businesses in this region to ship their goods to the United States and global markets. A key component is the Atlantic Gateway concept, essentially making Nova Scotia the shipping door for cargo destined for Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest.

Critics such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives argue that the Atlantica framework will foul the environment and erode labour standards.

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, on the other hand, believes Atlantica will mean more jobs because of better access to new markets. AIMS acting president Charles Cirtwill feels many assume NAFTA knocked down most trade barriers, but says many still exist between states and provinces. Differing regulations on vehicle truck weights and differing requirements for doctors and lawyers are but a few. There’s a surcharge on beer produced in Nova Scotia and sold in New Brunswick, for instance, yet none if the same beer is sold in Maine.

“That makes no sense at all,” Cirtwill argues. He sees a similar problem with the Canada-Newfoundland and Canada-Nova Scotia offshore accords.

“We essentially had offshore service vessels based in Newfoundland with Newfoundland crews, having to fire their crews and hire Nova Scotians if they wanted to work in this offshore.”

A stronger Atlantica, Cirtwill argues, will impact everyone from the single operator trying to invent the next Rubik’s Cube to large companies like Emera.

Stephen Dempsey, Greater Halifax Partnership president and APCC chairman, questions why Atlantic Canada has four separate securities regulatory bodies when it has the fewest number of public companies in Canada and just 2.4 million people.

“We’re not advocating getting rid of regulations. What we’re saying is, let’s standardize them. Let’s make sure they’re consistent. In circumstances where there is no reason for it to be different, then why should it be?”