Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TILMA: Labour standards, minimum wages, social assistance benefits, subsidies for non-profit organizations "by no means safe"

The following letter to the editor appeared in the June 19, 2007, edition of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix:

SP commentary on TILMA skips many key provisions

The StarPhoenix

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Randy Burton's column, No need to fear new trade deal (SP, June 14) omits important facts.

He cites a long list of exemptions in TILMA but failed to point out that Article 17 of the agreement requires a ministerial committee to "review annually the exceptions listed ... with a view to reducing their scope."

The list of exemptions is meant to shrink over time, eventually exposing them to the full force of the agreement.

The Conference Board of Canada's impact assessment of TILMA for the B.C. government confirms this. So, such things as labour standards and codes, minimum wages, Employment Insurance, social assistance benefits and workers' compensation programs are by no means safe.

Subsidies for recreation, academic research and to non-profit organizations could be at risk since they, too, are subject to Article 17. British Columbia's Minister of Economic Development Colin Hansen has stated many times that "TILMA is designed to eliminate subsidies."

B.C. and Alberta state in their TILMA publications 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 seems that they, too, could be at risk. Burton doesn't acknowledge this.

An Edmonton Journal editorial admitted on April 3 that there's "little in the way of genuine trade barriers remaining between the two westernmost provinces." Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall said in a news release that Saskatchewan has "fewer trade barriers and restrictions than either B.C. or Alberta."

And yet Wall and The SP say we must sign TILMA as soon as possible. Why?

Georgie Davis

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007


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