Tuesday, May 29, 2007

TILMA: Saskatoon StarPhoenix support unconscionable for reckless trade scheme

“The change in the architecture of the TILMA is considered to be an improvement, in terms of the coverage of the measures included, when compared to the AIT. It is also more transparent since future negotiations can focus on the removal of the exceptions from the explicit exclusion list.”
– The Conference Board of Canada, An Impact Assessment of the BC/Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (September 2005) p. 14

“Even though the TILMA is an improvement on the AIT, it is not perfect. The agreement has too many exceptions and exclusions, although many of them expire by April 2009. There should be no exclusions or exceptions unless a government can demonstrate that there is no other way to protect public health and safety or the environment in its jurisdiction.”
– Robert Knox, Trade Analyst, BC and Alberta Challenge the Rest of Canada on Internal Trade, Fraser Forum (July/August 2006) p. 23

“The TILMA is not a perfect agreement. Part V of the agreement lists exceptions for both parties, as well as exceptions for the two individual provinces. The general exceptions include: measures regarding water services; regulated rates established for the public good; and social policy, including labour standards and codes, social assistance, and workers’ compensation. The TILMA also includes a series of exemptions for certain business subsidies, such as direct subsidies to book and magazine publishers, sound recordings, and film development, production, and distribution. It also includes exemptions for assistance given to recreation, academic research, and non-profit organizations. Finally and not surprisingly, there are also government procurement exemptions for the health and social services sectors. Thankfully, however, both governments have already committed to reducing these exceptions.”
– Jason Clemens, Milagros Palacios, & Martin Massé, TILMA: An Extraordinary Achievement for BC and Alberta, Fraser Forum (July/August 2006) p. 20
Jason Clemens and Milagros Palacios are analysts in The Fraser Institute’s fiscal studies department. Martin Massé is an intern in the same department.

I have no idea whats scary about what B.C. and Alberta are doing...What it excludes is important, health and social (policy) is excluded, labour laws are excluded...there is opportunity for us in our view and nothing to be worried about.
– Brad Wall, Saskatchewan Party Leader, Deal interests Sask. Premier, Regina Leader-Post, June 7, 2006

SP support unconscionable for reckless TILMA scheme

The StarPhoenix
Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The editorial, TILMA gives clout to Sask. (SP, May 15) neglected to tell readers about the agreement's destructive side.

The SP claims "TILMA's success is based on the notion of including everything unless there's a darn good reason to leave out a sector. And those exceptions are rare."

TILMA's exceptions include: water; measures that relate to aboriginal peoples; regulated rates established for the public good or public interest; social policy that includes labour standards and codes, minimum wages, Employment Insurance, social assistance benefits and worker's compensation; compensation to persons for losses resulting from calamities such as diseases or disasters; assistance for book and magazine publishers, sound recordings and film development, production and distribution; assistance for recreation, academic research or to non-profit organizations; the management and disposal of hazardous and waste materials; and the management or conservation of forests, fish and wildlife.

A measure includes any legislation, regulation, standard, directive, requirement, guideline, program, policy, administrative practice or other procedure. Article 17 of the agreement requires a ministerial committee to "review annually the exceptions listed ... with a view to reducing their scope."

This means the list of exceptions will shrink over time, eventually exposing them to the full force of the agreement. In fact, a February 2007 TILMA publication ominously states "ongoing efforts continue to reduce exceptions."

An October 2006 TILMA brochure states "if a measure is not clearly identified as an exception, it is subject to the rules of the agreement." Since health and education measures are not clearly identified as exceptions, it would seem that they, too, could be at risk.

This is merely a sample of TILMA's potential impact. It's unconscionable that The SP would support such a reckless scheme that threatens to jeopardize important social policies, programs and services, so private profits can be put ahead of the public interest.

Joe Kuchta

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007


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