Sunday, May 27, 2007

TILMA: Trade act could destroy social policies–Ottawa Citizen; health, education, Aboriginal peoples, labour standards, EI, social assistance at risk

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Sunday, May 27, 2007, edition of the Ottawa Citizen (Page A11). It is in response to the May 15 editorial Trading with the neighbours.

Trade act could destroy social policies

The Ottawa Citizen
Sunday, May 27, 2007

Re: Trading with the neighbours, May 15.

The editorial did not tell readers about the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement’s (TILMA) potential impact on important social policies and programs.

TILMA’s list of exceptions, which are not now subject to the agreement, 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 TILMA 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. A February 2007 TILMA publication ominously states that “ongoing efforts continue to reduce exceptions.”

An October 2006 TILMA brochure 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.

This is merely a sample of TILMA’s potential negative impact.

JOE KUCHTA, Saskatoon

©The Ottawa Citizen 2007


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