Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Conservative Harper government promotes dangerous TILMA in Budget 2007; touts deeper integration with U.S.

“The overwhelming majority of government measures that are subject to TILMA have little if anything to do with inter-provincial trade, investment or labour mobility, per se. Rather, these measures, which run the gamut from environmental controls to health care insurance plans, were established to serve broad public or societal purposes and apply equally to persons or companies whatever their respective province of origin. While such measures may impact investment, trade and labour mobility, these effects are indirect or tangential to their essential purpose. Nevertheless, because of these indirect effects, they may be challenged for offending TILMA prohibitions.”

“Taken together, the likely impacts of TILMA represent a profound assault on the capacity of present and future governments in BC and Alberta to serve the public interest.

Furthermore, there is no plausible rationale for TILMA, for as we know, Canada is a free society in which people are free to live, work and invest anywhere they choose. There are no customs stations along provincial borders and no tariffs of any kind on inter-provincial trade. Moreover, inter-provincial trade is a federal responsibility and provincial measures that interfere even indirectly with such trade have been consistently struck down by the courts.

The claim that we must remove the few, and largely warranted, barriers to inter-provincial trade, investment and labour mobility that do exist, is no more than a smokescreen for a corporate agenda that seeks to substantially reduce the role of government as regulator and service provider.”
Steven Shrybman, Jan. 29, 2007

Mr. Shrybman is a partner in the law firm of Sack, Goldblatt and Mitchell and practices international trade and public interest law in Ottawa. To read his full legal opinion setting out the implications of Ontario entering into a similar TILMA agreement click here.

With that in mind the Conservative Harper government is committed to unleashing this horrific trade deal right across Canada. For those that sign the agreement no community will be spared, nearly everything affected: departments, ministries, agencies, boards, councils, committees, commissions, Crown Corporations, government-owned commercial enterprises; regional, local, district or other forms of municipal government; school boards, publicly-funded academic, health and social service entities.

Remember NAFTA? This is far worse.

The Conservative Harper government is also intent on committing Canada to even deeper integration with the United States.

TILMA, and the Conservative government’s support of it, illustrates precisely why many Canadians find Stephen Harper scary.

The Budget 2007 delivered by Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty contains a number of seemingly benign references to TILMA but on closer inspection reveals a government determined to put private profits permanently ahead of the public interest.

Chapter 5 of Budget 2007 states:

"Budget 2007 takes action on creating an Entrepreneurial Advantage in Canada by...Committing to work with interested provinces/territories to examine how the Alberta-British Columbia Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement could be applied more broadly. This will help build our economic union and promote the free flow of people and goods within Canada."

"A more competitive domestic market will better prepare Canadian businesses for further success in the global economy. Artificial barriers to labour mobility can make it difficult for firms to find the skilled labour they need. Other impediments to internal trade can raise business costs and reduce competition. Reducing internal trade barriers will benefit us all through greater product and service choice, lower prices and higher economic growth.

All governments within Canada can contribute to a stronger domestic market. In April 2006, the Governments of Alberta and British Columbia signed the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), a wide-ranging internal trade deal that will make it much easier for goods, investments and skilled workers to move between these two provinces. This agreement, the most comprehensive of its type in Canadian history, has created significant momentum. The federal government is committed to building on this momentum and will work with interested provinces and territories to examine how the TILMA provisions could be applied more broadly to reduce interprovincial barriers to trade and labour mobility across the country."

"...developing a more comprehensive trade and investment relationship with our closest trading partner, the United States, is key to the success of Canadian business. For more than 60 years, we have been able to rely on our trade relationship with the world's largest, most dynamic economy. We continue to benefit from this relationship, yet we must recognize that new players are challenging us in our traditional market. The Global Commerce Strategy will address this challenge by reinforcing our U.S. presence and implementing new initiatives such as the direct engagement of private sector experts in order to connect Canadian companies with new opportunities and attract investment."

"At the heart of the Government's strategy is the adoption of a new Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation that will come into effect on April 1, 2007...To meet the Government's Advantage Canada commitment to a new modern approach to regulation and improved efficiency and effectiveness, Budget 2007 provides $9 million over two years to implement this initiative."
“TILMA represents a far reaching and corrosive constraint on the future capacity of the governments of British Columbia and Alberta to exercise the policy, legislative, and programmatic authority that is essential to their governance mandates. Given the enormous impacts this regime in likely to have on virtually every sphere of public policy and law, it would be unconscionable for Ontario or any government considering TILMA-like obligations to proceed without the fullest and informed public discussion and debate.” – Steven Shrybman
To date no informed public discussion and debate has occurred -- not even in the two provinces that have signed the agreement.


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