Tuesday, August 07, 2007

TILMA: Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall, the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region and the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America


President George W. Bush, with Mexico President Vicente Fox, left,
and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, March 23, 2005,
at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. White House photo by Eric Draper

President George W. Bush, Mexico's President Vicente Fox, center,
and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, following
their joint news conference, March 31, 2006 in Cancun, Mexico.
White House photo by Eric Draper

“We did have something to do with the B.C.-Alberta agreement, which I think is a great model that needs to be expanded.”
Matt Morrison, Executive Director, Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER)

“[PNWER] has had a profound impact on policymaking.”
Hon. Stockwell Day, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety

It appears that Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall is not being entirely honest about his party’s interest in TILMA or the relationship between it and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER).

In Calvert wary of ‘back door’ (Leader-Post, August 4, 2007), Premier Lorne Calvert questioned the sincerity of Wall’s recent flip-flop on the BC-Alberta trade agreement, suggesting his party was looking for a “back door” entrance to join.

Wall dismissed the comments as NDP fear mongering due to the probability of a provincial election this year, which coincidentally is the same reason a lot of people think Wall is back peddling on his support for TILMA. It seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Wall claims that PNWER is a regional economic group just “discussing reducing barriers to trade” and that “it doesn’t have anything to do with TILMA.”

Neil Parekh, PNWER’s policy and communications director, said the organization looks at “best practices” around various regional issues and that TILMA is just one the things being talked about.

This does not appear to be accurate.

At its Annual Summit on July 18, 2006, in Edmonton, 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.”

Present at the meeting were the Hon. Gary Mar, Alberta’s then Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations, Shawn Robbins, Director of Internal Trade for Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations, Don Fast, BC’s Deputy Minister of Economic Development, and Robert Musgrave, Manager of Trade Policy and Programs for BC Economic Development.

The group’s working notes show that Minister Mar promoted TILMA “as a possible best practice for other regions.”

The 17th PNWER Annual Summit was held July 22-26, 2007, in Anchorage, Alaska. The Trade & Economic Development portion of the agenda took place July 24th where an update on the 2006 Working Group Action Items on TILMA was discussed.

Among the group’s recommendations are “that PNWER ask the Workforce Mobility Task Force to consider expanding their project’s objectives to also include other TILMA issues such as procurement and standards/regulations.”

In the Leader-Post article Calvert noted that seven Saskatchewan Party MLAs attended the recent summit and said that Wall needs to clear up his position on TILMA, which is absolutely right. In his party’s June 28, 2007, news release Wall said that it would not sign TILMA “in its present form.” The careful wording certainly does leave the door open for a “back door” attempt to join the agreement.

For the past year Wall’s support for TILMA and PNWER has been absolute and unequivocal.

On May 1, 2006, the Saskatchewan Party issued a news release calling on the NDP government to join the “Western Trade Pact.”

In the Saskatchewan Legislature on May 18, 2006, Wall condemned Premier Calvert for not being part of the closed-door discussions with BC-Alberta and for not signing the agreement saying “The province of Saskatchewan should be there as a part of this accord.”

In the June 7, 2006, Leader-Post Wall is quoted as saying “I have no idea what’s scary about what B.C. and Alberta are doing...there is opportunity for us in our view and nothing to be worried about.”

In his July 2006 MLA Report Wall recalled a meeting he had with former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and their discussion about TILMA. Wall said “I informed Premier Klein that although he will soon be stepping down as Premier, that a Saskatchewan Party government would, on a priority basis, get to the table with Alberta and BC.”

In a speech delivered at the 2007 Saskatoon Saskatchewan Party Leader’s Dinner on March 8, 2007, Wall said he had asked his party’s Western Economic Cooperation Critic, Mike Chisholm, to “focus” on PNWER. Wall said that he met with the Premiers and senior officials of BC and Alberta and was told “they would welcome Saskatchewan’s potentially powerful voice in their efforts to get federal attention for the [Asia-Pacific] Gateway.”

Not once during this time did Wall raise any concerns with TILMA in its present form. Only now on the eve of an expected provincial election does Wall say he has problems with the trade agreement. Its little wonder Premier Calvert and the public are skeptical.

In the news article Wall was asked whether his party’s decision could be re-visited if the terms of TILMA could be changed. He said that’s a “hypothetical situation” and that it doesn’t sound like it’s an option.

While it’s true that TILMA is a take it or leave proposition it does not negate the possibility of a Saskatchewan Party government signing a similar agreement with BC and Alberta. This scenario allows Wall to keep his so-called promise and would also satisfy the order given by Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty last month that the provinces “either piggyback onto the Alberta-B.C. deal, as is allowed, or emulate the pact.” [Flaherty wants to tear down trade barriers inside Canada, National Post, July 5, 2007]

Alternatively, should PNWER sign TILMA and a Saskatchewan Party government under Brad Wall joins the organization it could conceivably mean the province adopting the agreement – through the back door.

It also appears that joining PNWER could hasten Saskatchewan’s involvement with the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP); the “deep integration” agenda being pushed by the Harper Conservatives and the powerful business lobby group Canadian Council of Chief Executives, who launched its North American Security and Prosperity Initiative (NASPI) in January 2003. The group, like Harper, is a big supporter of TILMA.

The SPP – dubbed by some as NAFTA-plus – was announced at Waco, Texas, on March 23, 2005 by US President George W. Bush, Mexico’s President Vincente Fox, and Canada’s Prime Minister Paul Martin – without parliamentary or congressional authorization.

On March 31, 2006, the Leaders announced the creation of the secretive North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) to fully incorporate the private sector into the SPP process.

On June 13, 2006, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada’s ten private sector representatives on the NACC and all are conveniently connected with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives:

Annette Verschuren (The Home Depot) – Executive Committee
Dominic D’Alessandro (Manulife Financial) – Executive Committee
Paul Desmarais, Jr. (Power Corporation of Canada) – Executive Committee
Richard George (Suncor Energy Inc.) – Executive Committee
David Ganong (Ganong Bros. Limited) – Board of Director
Michael Sabia (Bell Canada Enterprises) – Board of Director
Hunter Harrison (CN) – Member
Linda Hasenfratz (Linamar Corporation) – Member
Jim Shepherd (Canfor Corporation) – Member
Rick Waugh (Scotiabank) – Member

On March 6-7, 2006, the Canadian Section of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group and the Policy Research Initiative (Privy Council Office) co-hosted the Ottawa roundtable of the North American Linkages Project on the emergence of bi-national cross-border regions.

At the meeting keynote speaker Senator Jerry Grafstein, Co-Chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, said “provinces and states along our shared border can work together in the formation of cross-border regions that will enhance prosperity for all.”

“There are a variety of models that can be used in forming these bi-national economic regions…one very successful model is the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, known as PNWER,” he said.

Grafstein noted that “PNWER is a private-public partnership comprised of representatives from the federal governments, the provincial and state legislatures and the private sector in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon Territory.” Its common goal “is the creation of a dynamic, growth-oriented, seamless regional market that will enhance global competitiveness and result in greater prosperity for citizens and businesses in the region.”

“The PNWER model, which is a model of success, should be emulated by other states and provinces all along the 49th parallel,” said Grafstein.

“North America cannot afford for any region to lag behind economically; it is much too costly, and our taxpayers cannot afford it; we must change entrenched practices and laws that inhibit growth…as stewards of our national economies, legislators in Canada and the United States have a role to play in encouraging, promoting and creating the types of programs, policies and actions that will facilitate economic growth, productivity and prosperity for all,” he said.

PNWER’s executive director Matt Morrison, an American, told the group that his “organization is able to address issues regularly, thereby pre-empting more costly and slower international processes” and that “intermodal infrastructure connections, bi-national seamless border processes and worker mobility are key to North American productivity.”

“The Canadian government is not engaging with border stakeholders, in a systematic and regular manner, on the Security and Prosperity Partnership action plan; cross-border regions would be ideal partners to make this engagement happen,” said Morrison.

“Cross-border regions could be used to influence U.S. policymakers, to build trust and to establish long-term relationships.”

On October 18, 2006, Morrison told the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce that PNWER is “an engine of economic growth, and dealing with the exact things that your committee is dealing with is essential for our long-term competitiveness in this global marketplace. I applaud you for addressing this issue. We did have something to do with the B.C.-Alberta agreement, which I think is a great model that needs to be expanded.”

(And Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall said PNWER has nothing to do with TILMA.)

“[B]ecause there is an accountability structure, we have been able to increase the bilateral relationships between our various members and we are now having joint legislative committee meetings in the other country, and a lot of important things are happening because we are building friendships across all the boundaries,” Morrison said.

“Just because the organization exists and we have two regular meetings every year, as well as all these other meetings, it is a place where a lot of other cross-border groups are able to meet as well. They have side-bar meetings during our summits,” he noted.

(Question: Did any of the Saskatchewan Party MLAs that attended the 2007 Annual Summit in Anchorage participate in side-bar meetings with representatives of PNWER?)

“We see the Pacific gateway project as a major opportunity. Minister Emerson has been a visionary in looking at the Pacific gateway and knowing that it will not work if it is just a gateway for Canada,” Morrison told the committee.

“We had a meeting with Minister Solberg a few months ago; he has charged PNWER to form a task force with public and private stakeholders to begin to address the barriers that can be solved on a provincial, federal and international basis. This is front and centre at every meeting as our number one issue” and “within the Security and Prosperity Partnership they have identified all the issues we need to be working with,” he said.

“[I]f you had three wishes, Mr. Morrison…what are the three things you would tell us that we should promote?” asked Chairman Grafstein as the meeting drew to a close.

“You have a great opportunity with Alberta and B.C. booming, and the fact that they have already started and made this agreement. You should really push that as a model,” Morrison replied.

“You are referring to the labour mobility agreement,” said Grafstein.

“Developing that was a great process…Anything we can do to help put pressure on provinces, at least in our region, will be a help,” said Morrison.

It’s bad enough that TILMA was negotiated behind closed doors without public consultation or legislative debate. That the United States might have been involved is truly disturbing. It’s time Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party told the people of Saskatchewan what its agenda really is.


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