Friday, March 30, 2007

TILMA slammed by Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association; report cites numerous concerns

At its quarterly meeting held on March 23 & 24 in Regina the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) Board of Directors considered a draft report prepared by SUMA policy analyst Sean McEachern (dated March 22, 2007) called: Report on the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement and the Potential Impact on Saskatchewan’s Urban Municipalities.

The seven-page report outlines numerous implications for urban municipalities in Saskatchewan should the province adopt the trade agreement. The SUMA board subsequently passed a motion opposing Saskatchewan's involvement in the agreement.

It appears that neither the Saskatoon StarPhoenix or Regina Leader-Post has reported this.

It should be noted that the conservative opposition Saskatchewan Party, which is lead by Brad Wall, has stated that it supports the agreement and would seek a similar deal if elected. This was confirmed in an August 4, 2006, news release by the party.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper also supports TILMA. Chapter 5 of the recent Budget 2007 states that the federal government "is committed" to working with "interested provinces and territories to examine how the TILMA provisions could be applied more broadly...across the country."

The following is an excerpt from the draft report outlining the implications and recommendation presented by the SUMA policy analyst.
Implications for Urban Municipalities

As the debate builds around the implementation of TILMA, several organizations including the Fraser Institute, the Conference Board of Canada, the Canada West Foundation, The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives are providing their take on the merits and pitfalls of TILMA. Most of these observations fall within the scope of the provincial government, although a few have addressed the implications for municipal governments.

As the full implementation of TILMA will not occur until 2009, it is unclear at this time what impact this agreement will have on the urban municipalities of Alberta and British Columbia. Any suggestion of a specific outcome is solely based on speculation and interpretation of the agreement. However, these observations are extremely helpful in determining the positive and negative implications for Saskatchewan’s urban municipalities.

Supporters of TILMA believe that this agreement will increase economic productivity and efficiency, create new investment and provide businesses the opportunity to bid on projects across the border with free access to compete and succeed in that market. In addition, TILMA will create a harmonized regime of business regulation that will make it easier for companies to operate and invest in both provinces, freer movement of skilled workers, and greater competition in government procurement leading to lower costs for taxpayers in both provinces.

Opponents to the agreement are concerned that TILMA would threaten a government’s ability to offer support to struggling regions, that it provides too great authority to the arbitration panel to impose fines on government bodies and that provinces would be required to harmonize regulations leading to potentially weaker legislation. Even greater concern is the possibility that environmental protection policy would be at risk to challenges from business.

Within the context of municipalities, TILMA could have some far reaching implications, despite the currently stated protections and limitations. Some possible scenarios that could occur include challenges to:

• land use restrictions
• controls on pesticide use
• rules applying to signage
• business subsidies/grants to encourage development in certain locations within municipal boundaries
• housing standards and purchasing programs that favour local or regional suppliers and contractors.

In addition, TILMA could hinder a municipality’s ability to introduce any new bylaws or regulations that may infringe upon the principles of this agreement.

The governments of Alberta and British Columbia have assured their respective municipal associations that these scenarios would not occur under TILMA. However, should an individual or business choose to challenge these measures, the provinces have the right to jointly declare their interpretation of the agreement to make their intent clear.1


It is vitally important that Saskatchewan’s urban municipalities educate themselves on the details of this agreement. More importantly, should the Province of Saskatchewan choose to begin negotiations with Alberta and British Columbia to join this agreement, Saskatchewan’s urban municipalities should be fully engaged at the negotiation table beside the Province of Saskatchewan. It is the position of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association that our cities, towns and villages are governed by Mayors and Councilors who are duly elected by the citizens of their communities and, therefore should be treated as an autonomous order of government. If urban municipalities are to be affected by this agreement, then as an order of government we should be included in the negotiations, not simply consulted after the fact, as is happening in Alberta and British Columbia. Saskatchewan has made a similar consultation pledge – if it decides “to keep open the option of accession to TILMA.”2

If the Province of Saskatchewan does not support municipalities being a part of the negotiations, then the cities, towns and villages in Saskatchewan should strongly demand a complete exemption from this agreement.

1 Letter to UBCM, AUMA and AAMDC from the Governments of British Columbia and Alberta, available at
2 Letter to Town of Meadow Lake from Minister Harry Van Mulligen: March 20, 2007.


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