TILMA: Pre-election flip-flop destroys Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall’s credibility
Party Calls On NDP To Join In Western Trade Pact” Saskatchewan
Party News Release Headline, May 1, 2006 Saskatchewan
should be there as a part of this accord.” provinceof Saskatchewan
SaskatchewanParty Leader Brad Wall, Legislature, May 18, 2006 Saskatchewan
“I have no idea what’s scary about what B.C. and
are doing...there is opportunity for us in our view and nothing to be worried about.” Alberta
SaskatchewanParty Leader Brad Wall, Leader-Post, June 7, 2006 Regina
“[Saskatchewan Party Economic Development Critic Lyle] Stewart said a Saskatchewan Party government would seek a similar agreement with other western provinces.”
Party News Release, August 4, 2006 Saskatchewan
“[T]here’s no way that [The NDP] will sign on to the TILMA agreement before the next election. It’s going to take a new government…to do bold things like sign on to the TILMA agreement and get this province rolling.”
SaskatchewanParty MLA Legislature, March 26, 2007 Elwin Hermanson, Saskatchewan
After a year of repeatedly saying that it supported the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), and would sign it if elected, the Saskatchewan Party has now officially come out against the trade deal – sort of.
In a pre-election damage control move to extricate itself from the growing criticism and controversy surrounding TILMA, Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall, under the cover of a long-weekend news release and a recent report by an all-party legislative committee examining the trade deal, flip-flopped his party’s position by saying it would not sign the agreement “in its present form.”
The careful wording would seem to allow Wall the leeway to consider signing TILMA in a different form should one emerge at a later date.
In the June 28, 2007, news release Wall blamed the Saskatchewan NDP government for his party’s about face saying it was because the province “did not take part in the original TILMA negotiations with BC and
This ignores the fact that it was
It also ignores the fact that the negotiations between BC and
Forgotten is the Saskatchewan Party’s May 1, 2006, news release calling on the NDP government to join the agreement and Wall’s condemnation of Premier Lorne Calvert in the legislature on May 1 & 2 for not being at the table with BC and
In the legislature on May 18, 2006, Wall again berated Premier Calvert and said the
On August 4, 2006, then-Saskatchewan Party Economic Development Critic Lyle Stewart said a Saskatchewan Party government would seek a similar agreement with other western provinces.
During his many tirades Wall raised no concerns with TILMA “in its present form”.
The news release and Wall’s comments appear to be politically motivated and nothing more than a pathetic attempt to divert attention away from his party’s support for a reckless, destructive and increasingly divisive trade agreement.
If the Saskatchewan Party is capable of this kind of deception and hypocrisy as the official opposition what do the people of
“The Saskatchewan Party strongly supports the reduction of inter-provincial trade barriers as a means to grow
Unfortunately, the news release does not provide a list of genuine trade barriers between provinces that Wall thinks should be removed.
Furthermore, on April 3, 2007, an Edmonton Journal editorial said there is “little in the way of genuine trade barriers remaining between the two westernmost provinces” and Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall said in a news release that
In the June 28 news release Wall said the Opposition’s own research and the TILMA hearings raised specific concerns about three areas which are not clearly addressed in the current TILMA agreement:
1. The protection of Crown Corporations;
2. The exemption of provincial new growth tax incentives; and
3. The potential loss of new growth tax incentives at the municipal level.
Curiously, despite his party’s own research, Wall never brought these concerns forward last year when he was hysterically calling on Premier Calvert to sign the agreement. And yet in the legislature on May 2, 2006, Wall had the gall to suggest that NDP Government Relations Minister Harry Van Mulligen had not done his homework on the TILMA file.
This seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. During a speech at the 2006 Saskatoon Leader’s Dinner on March 2, 2006, at
Then there is Wall’s March 19, 2007, letter to the City of Saskatoon outlining the three criteria that would have to be met in order for his party to sign TILMA:
1. That it not negatively impact on the public ownership of the major Crowns
2. That it not negatively impact environmental standards
3. That it not negatively impact the well-being of workers.
The exemption of provincial new growth tax incentives and the potential loss of new growth tax incentives at the municipal level mentioned in the June 28 news release are absent from the list – and yet the Saskatchewan Party claims it does its homework.
Not only would TILMA adversely affect municipalities it puts at risk important policies and programs that are in the public interest to maintain.
TILMA’s list of exceptions include measures relating to Aboriginal peoples; water; regulated rates established for the public good or the public interest; social policy, including 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.”
The exceptions in TILMA will shrink over time and are by no means safe. The Conference Board of
Furthermore, an October 2006 TILMA fact sheet states that “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 they, too, could be at significant risk.
Wall has refused to say whether a Saskatchewan Party government would ensure that these important measures are permanently exempt from any trade agreement it might consider signing. His silence on the issue and the fact that they aren’t included in the June 28 news release or Wall’s March 19 letter to the City of
Wall stated in the June 28 news release that he was also concerned about the lack of formal input from Saskatchewan cities.
Where was Wall a year ago when similar concerns, along with many others which he refuses to recognize, began coming forward from various organizations and individuals? Why is it only now in the eleventh hour that he is willing to acknowledge their validity?
In an address that day to more than 200 students at the
“The goal of our
Apparently the number of barriers in
The word barrier occurs 40 times in the plan. While no attempt is made to provide a separate, comprehensive list, Wall does refer to the following as barriers:
– Direct competition to business from various government agencies
– Crowns attempting to diversify from core functions; policies of the Crowns themselves
– Inadequate access to bandwidth
– Lack of high-speed internet access in parts of the province
– Corporate income taxes
– The resource surcharge
– Shortage of skilled labour
– Poor infrastructure (i.e. high quality roads)
– Red tape
– Government permitting
– The PST
– Financial institutions taxed at a higher rate than manufacturing firms
– High fuel taxes
One barrier that Wall mentions a few times is the corporate capital tax which he calls “insidious” and “penalizes private sector investment” yet in the next breath says that it is an area “the government of
It is unclear whether an agreement like TILMA is the appropriate vehicle for addressing Wall’s barriers. He does not appear to be citing them when commenting on the trade agreement. To date Wall has not produced a list of genuine trade barriers between provinces and has described
It is interesting to note that the word investment appears 80 times in Wall’s economic vision while social occurs just 3 times. Page 26 appears to provide a glimpse of where social issues are situated on Wall’s list of priorities:
“In 1996, a KPMG study on location cost analysis highlighted the need forIn Wall’s world it would seem that investor rights and interests trump social and quality-of-life considerations.
to become competitive on taxes and stability. Investors were worried about the stability of the business environment and the potential for radical changes in operating conditions. Indeed, the study recommended more partnerships between stakeholders through a provincial economic development authority. The study also pointed out that investment decisions are driven by financial factors, not quality-of-life considerations. It recommends Saskatchewan emphasize its attraction in business terms, not social ones, when marketing itself to outside investors. Saskatchewan
“Let us not lose sight of the basics.
must be competitive in terms of taxes, regulation, the availability of venture capital, and innovation. Saskatchewan
“An enterprising, entrepreneurial
economy will be impatient, relentless, aggressive, self-promoting and even brash. Profit within that economy will be lauded instead of envied.” Saskatchewan
In his party’s June 28 news release leader Brad Wall said “We know that
This is not new information. The BC Government – who initiated TILMA – publicly stated its position on the matter last year.
In a speech to the BC Business Council and Canada West Foundation on December 13, 2006, BC Premier Gordon Campbell had this to say about TILMA:
“So we’ve said toIn Provinces unite to tackle skill shortages (Vancouver Sun, Dec. 14, 2006) Premier Campbell said Saskatchewan and Ontario are welcome to join TILMA “provided they don’t try to tinker with the deal.”
we’d like to tell you how the agreement’s working; we want to show you how the dispute resolution works; we want to show you the penalties; we want to show you what we’re doing. We’d love you to join us, but these are the rules. Saskatchewan
“I talked with Premier McGuinty in
Ontarioabout Ontariojoining British Columbiaand . I said to Premier McGuinty: “You’re the biggest province in the country, Alberta . You guys are important to all of us. By the way, we’re not changing the agreement, but you’re welcome to join.”” Dalton
Given Brad Wall’s apparent fondness for BC and
Wall’s affinity for
During a speech to the North Saskatoon Business Association on December 8, 2005, at the Delta Bessborough Hotel, Wall said:
“I have spoken to many of those seeking to replace Mr. Klein in Alberta, and to Mr. Klein himself and they welcome the day when Saskatchewan will join Alberta and B.C. at the table to earnestly work together in areas of public policy including energy policy and the reduction of inter-provincial trade barriers.In his March 2, 2006, Saskatoon Leader’s Dinner Speech, Wall said that then-Alberta Premier Ralph Klein invited him to attend his annual Global Business Forum in
“They are waiting. I have already told them that a Brad Wall government will be at that table.”
“The Premier of Alberta informed me of high level meetings between his province and BC to look at ways of reducing inter-provincial barriers to growth and trade,” Wall said.
Wall went on to say “I am announcing tonight that I have tasked Sask. Party Cutknife-Turtleford MLA Michael Chisholm to focus exclusively on the opportunities of western economic cooperation so that we may send a clear but unpretentious message to other western capitals that a new government in Saskatchewan means a leading partner for them in the emerging New West and a strong new voice for Saskatchewan at the Council of the Federation of this country.”
In a March 3, 2006, Saskatchewan Party news release Wall followed up on the Chisholm announcement stating:
“We want to send a clear message to other western capitals that a new government inIn Deal interests Sask. premier (Regina Leader-Post, June 7, 2006), it was reported that Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall met with then-Alberta Premier Ralph Klein in Calgary on June 5, 2006, “where the main topic of discussion” was TILMA.
will mean a leading partner for them in this emerging new west,” Wall said. Saskatchewan
“Inter-provincial trade barriers, regulations and barriers to growth will be the focus of this Saskatchewan Party initiative.”
“I have no idea what’s scary about what B.C. and
In the Saskatchewan Legislature on April 2, 2007, on the subject of TILMA, Wall said:
“We met with officials inIt seems the Saskatchewan Party might have been privy to some of TILMA’s details prior to its signing and also that the governments of BC and Alberta were not interested in changing the agreement for other provinces, but the party chose to say little about it until its June 28, 2007, news release. Why?
and BC — both elected and the senior civil servants — who were part of negotiating that agreement. We asked questions about how would this impact our Crowns, which is very important to the province. How would it impact the autonomy of municipalities? We were doing our homework.” Alberta
Lastly, Wall said in the June 28 news release that he prefers other modes of western economic cooperation including Saskatchewan’s involvement in the Pacific North West Economic Region (PNWER) and he has already indicated that a Saskatchewan Party government would hold joint cabinet meetings with other western provinces to explore opportunities to cooperate in areas such as health care equipment and pharmaceutical purchases.
Wall neglected to mention that it was through closed-door joint cabinet meetings that led to TILMA in the first place. It seems Wall is eager to drag
As for its support of PNWER the Saskatchewan Party appears to be in lock step with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trade agenda.
In a speech delivered at the 2007 Saskatoon Saskatchewan Party Leader’s Dinner on March 8, 2007, at
A few weeks later Prime Minister Harper had this to say at a May 4, 2007, press conference in
“Our Government has now committed over $1 billion to this Initiative…And in the longer term, we intend to develop an Atlantic Gateway on the East Coast.”
The press conference also gave Harper the opportunity to showcase his support for TILMA: “This is a bold step that has been undertaken by two forward-looking provinces committed to successfully competing in global markets, and I believe their success will set an example other provinces will find hard to resist.”
Wall’s agenda appears to go well beyond TILMA and could include joining PNWER who are studying the BC-Alberta trade agreement as well.
On July 18, 2006, PNWER’s Trade & Economic Development Work Group resolved to “embrace the opportunity to educate and explore the possibility of expanding the B.C.-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) concept throughout the PNWER region.”
The 17th PNWER Annual Summit is scheduled for July 22-26, 2007, in
The controversy and debate surrounding TILMA may be far from over.
The Saskatchewan Party and its leader Brad Wall’s support for the agreement last year was unequivocal. One might wish to keep in mind the old adage that “a leopard cannot change its spots.”