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Alberta files trade complaint over licence plate battle

The recent ban on Alberta license plates on Saskatchewan Government infrastructure projects is heating up. Last week, Saskatchewan Highways and Infrastructure Minister David Marit banned construction crews from using vehicles registered in Alberta at provincial road or building construction sites.

Marit said the ban was in response to contractors telling him Saskatchewan plates are not welcome on Government of Alberta job sites. Alberta Trade Minister Deron Bilous says he has never heard of the issue before, a sentiment shared by several Alberta contractors and construction associations. Minister of Transportation Brian Mason has also said the claim has been met with “bewilderment and confusion.”

Bilous says he still has heard no evidence from the Saskatchewan government that discriminatory practices were happening. On top of that, he claims the ban is being applied retroactively to existing projects, which is something the Saskatchewan government said they would not do. Bilous also announced Thursday that he will be taking the ban to the regulating authorities.

“This morning I reported their actions to the New West Trade Agreement Secretariat. The NWPTA dispute resolution process is the fastest way to stop Brad Wall’s unfair protectionist policies and allow for construction companies and their workers to get back to business as usual.”

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If the panel rules in Alberta’s favour, Saskatchewan could face a penalty of up to $5 million. However, under the rules of the process, the Government of Saskatchewan now has 30 days to end the policy or collect evidence penalty free.

During that time, the Lloydminster Construction Association has agreed to host the two governments and help mediate. Bilous says that while it may seem like the province is backing down from its original statement, it is hoping to find a resolution.

“What we want to avoid quite frankly is engaging in a process that will see continued escalation or a thickening of the border or trade sanctions against other provinces.”

In the meantime, the Government of Alberta has opened an email so that businesses who are affected by the ban can claim damages.

Written by Dan Soul, 106.1 The Goat

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