Monday, February 26, 2007

TILMA a bad deal for Saskatoon; city administrative report raises many concerns

On April 28, 2006, the Provinces of British Columbia and Alberta signed the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement or “TILMA” as it is more commonly known.

The agreement is comprehensive covering all aspects of government with a key goal to streamline and harmonize standards and regulations that restrict or impair trade, investment or labour mobility. It is an exercise in massive deregulation. Some have said it is a step towards deeper integration with the United States.

An administrative report by Saskatoon’s city solicitor, tabled at city council’s Feb. 26, 2007, meeting, reviews “the possible effects of a TILMA-type agreement on The City of Saskatoon.”

According to the solicitor “the right of cities to local choice has been considerably strengthened in recent years by both the courts and legislation.” It appears, though, that TILMA would strip Saskatchewan municipalities of that right.

One example of citizens exercising their right to local choice is through petitions and referendums. In Saskatoon, the issues of Sunday shopping and a downtown casino were decided in referendums. With TILMA, “referendums would not have recognition or priority.” Citizens would lose this critical component of direct democracy.

Business subsidies, smoking bylaws, residential housing standards and the enhancement of downtown are just some of the issues the solicitor’s report shows that would be impacted by TILMA.

“Cities like Saskatoon, which have a long history of doing things first and doing things differently, will be at the greatest risk of TILMA challenges,” said the solicitor.

Disturbing is the fact that municipalities in British Columbia and Alberta were not consulted on TILMA before it was signed and both B.C. and Alberta’s assumptions on the effects of TILMA on municipalities “were made without any study or consultation.”

In her summary the solicitor wrote, “Based on the information that we have to date, it is…possible to assume that TILMA cannot be adjusted to fit cities.”

Despite pressure from the usual sources the Government of Saskatchewan has not yet signed TILMA.

In a May 1, 2006, news release the right-wing Saskatchewan Party’s Leader Brad Wall called on the governing NDP to join the Western trade pact. Wall then spent a good portion of question period in the Saskatchewan Legislature on May 2 & 3 criticizing the NDP for not jumping on board the trade deal train.

As expected conservative think tanks like the Fraser Institute and Canada West Foundation suggest Saskatchewan should sign the deal.

“All other Canadian jurisdictions would be well advised to follow the path of the two western-most provinces,” said the Fraser Institute in July/August 2006.

In a January 16,2007, Saskatoon StarPhoenix opinion piece the CWF said, “Saskatchewan should show leadership within Canada and become the first province to join B.C. and Alberta's Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement.”

Fortunately, for Saskatoon, the report by the city solicitor seems to demonstrate that TILMA would be a bad deal for Saskatchewan municipalities and is one that should be avoided.


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