Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saskatoon Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott continues to shamelessly say equalization promise kept; Skelton, Yelich & Trost fare no better

“This equalization issue significantly affects the future of Saskatchewan and we need to work together to ensure a bright future for our province. Ralph Goodale should not stand in the way and in this vital matter should allow our province to be treated the same as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan is not receiving a fair deal.”

Over the past ten years, Saskatchewan would have been entitled to about $4 billion more in equalization payments if the province was to receive the same deal as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
– Maurice Vellacott, MP Saskatoon-Wanuskewin (February 9, 2005, News Release)

Saskatchewan needs a new deal that would allow the province to keep 100 per cent of its revenues from non-renewable natural resources,” said Yelich. “While the Prime Minister is in Saskatchewan this week, he has the perfect opportunity to show his commitment to the province.”

A new equalization deal, similar to those made with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, could mean an estimated $825 million a year in revenues for Saskatchewan.
– Lynne Yelich, MP Blackstrap (August 24, 2005, News Release)

“Let me give you a 100 per cent guarantee, Prime Minister Harper will give Saskatchewan the best deal it's ever had from any prime minister ever,” he said.

Asked if that would be the same deal the Conservatives campaigned on, Trost said: “If it isn’t, it better be better.”
– Brad Trost, MP Saskatoon-Humboldt (August 23, 2006, CBC News)

“It is unacceptable that Saskatchewan does not receive a fair deal.”

Over the past decade, the people of Saskatchewan could have been entitled to about $4 billion more in equalization payments if the province had received the same deal as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador.
– Carol Skelton, MP Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar (February 9, 2005, News Release)

The “big lie” continues.

This week saw the release of another one of Saskatoon-Wanuskewin Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott’s ridiculously oversized “Householder” mailings to his constituents.

The Summer 2007 edition continues to peddle the preposterous claim that the Harper government kept it’s equalization promise to Saskatchewan in its March 2007 budget.

The Federal Conservatives promised full exclusion of non-renewable resource revenues from Equalization, a deal which would have benefited the people of Saskatchewan by approximately $800 million per year.

The March 2007 federal budget brought into effect a new equalization formula with a cap that effectively claws back Saskatchewan’s non-renewable resource revenues.

Instead of letting Saskatchewan people retain $800 million of revenue from its non-renewable resources every year going forward, the cap reduces the benefits to a one-time payment of $226 million in 2007-08, falling to zero next year and beyond. This is not what the federal government promised.

In the House of Commons on May 15, 2007, in a recorded vote, Saskatchewan’s 12 Conservative Members of Parliament voted in favour of breaking their promise to Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan’s Conservative MPs failed to stand up for their province.

This was the same bunch that met privately on July 19, 2006, for roundtable discussions where the dominant issue was the matter of equalization. In a subsequent letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on July 25, 2006, Saskatchewan Conservative Caucus Chair Brian Fitzpatrick wrote:

“All members present believed that anything less than substantial compliance with our committment will cause us no end of political difficulty during the next federal election. The two major Saskatchewan daily newspapers have made it abundantly clear that there is very little “wiggle room” for the Conservative government and its Saskatchewan MPs on this issue.”

Prior to that in a June 10, 2005, news release Vellacott affirmed “the Conservative Party’s recommendation that non-renewable natural resource revenues be removed from the equalization formula in order to encourage the development of economic growth in the non-renewable resource sectors across Canada.”

There was no mention of a cap.

On February 9, 2005, Vellacott issued this news release:
Vellacott supports joint effort with Premier on Equalization

The Saskatchewan Conservative Caucus has sent a letter requesting a meeting with Saskatchewan Premier Calvert to discuss the unfair situation regarding equalization. The Saskatchewan Conservative MPs are calling for a joint effort to ensure that Saskatchewan receives the same equalization deal recently offered to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Vellacott said, “This equalization issue significantly affects the future of Saskatchewan and we need to work together to ensure a bright future for our province. Ralph Goodale should not stand in the way and in this vital matter should allow our province to be treated the same as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan is not receiving a fair deal.”

Over the past ten years, Saskatchewan would have been entitled to about $4 billion more in equalization payments if the province was to receive the same deal as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Vellacott says, “Minister Goodale and the federal Liberal government have been treating Saskatchewanians like second class citizens. Finance Minister Goodale is not standing up for our province and offers pathetic justifications for why Saskatchewan should continue to get shafted.”
Two years later and it’s the Conservatives turn to shaft Saskatchewan.

In Equalization: great deal or election lie? (May 30, 2007) the Regina Leader-Post reported that “National Revenue Minister Carol Skelton, MP for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, said the federal budget gave Saskatchewan $878 million in new money, more per capita than any other province.” This is not what the budget shows.

The Government of Canada provides financial support to provinces and territories primarily through the Canada Health Transfer (CHT), the Canada Social Transfer (CST), Equalization and Territorial Formula Financing (TFF).

According to the federal finance department the estimated support through major transfers to provinces and territories on a per-capita basis for 2007-08 is:

Nunavut – $30,446
Northwest Territories – $20,368
Yukon – $18,862
Prince Edward Island – $3,484
New Brunswick – $3,369
Nova Scotia – $3,006
Manitoba – $2,999
Quebec – $2,436
Newfoundland and Labrador – $2,325
Alberta – $1,699
Saskatchewan – $1,685
Ontario – $1,636
British Columbia – $1,589

As it turns out Saskatchewan is the third lowest.

Furthermore, in a May 16, 2007, news release Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert pointed out that the $878-million figure was “misleading” and “shouldn’t fool anyone” because:
– 85 per cent of that amount is one-time funding, a far cry from permanent changes to Equalization that would have $800 million to Saskatchewan every year;

– it includes funding for a project that may not even be approved ($180 million for Iogen’s biofuel project); and

– the figure includes Saskatchewan’s share of national programs - in other words, this is not a special deal.
In his mail-out Vellacott claims: “Premier Lorne Calvert's double-talk on the equalization issue is hurting his credibility. Desperate to distract voters from his horrible record as Premier, Calvert is attempting to fool people in Saskatchewan on the equalization issue.”

On the contrary, some of the NDP provincial government’s achievements in just the past year alone include:

– Saskatchewan having the largest free wireless network in Canada.

– Government debt forecast to be $6.9 billion at year-end, the lowest it’s been since 1990-91.

– Government debt-to-GDP ratio is forecast at 14.7 per cent, the lowest it’s been in more than 20 years.

– In July 2007 construction began on the University of Saskatchewan’s new Academic Health Sciences Centre. In 2005 the Government invested $100 million for the project, the single largest capital contribution by the province to a university.

– This year Saskatchewan officially became an international affiliate of The Energy Council, an American organization of state legislators focused on energy and environment-related policy concerns.

– Saskatchewan’s total crime rate decreased 4 per cent in 2006 – the third consecutive year of decline in the provincial rate.

– In June 2007 Saskatchewan marked 15 straight record months for people working in the province.

– The new Saskatchewan Labour Market Commission (SLMC) was created through legislation in March 2007, bringing together influential representatives from labour, business, First Nations and Metis, the social economy, the training system and government. The SLMC will provide strategic advice directly to government on substantive provincial, regional and sectoral labour market trends, issues and strategies.

– Saskatchewan was tied for the second lowest unemployment rate in Canada in June at 3.9 per cent (seasonally unadjusted), down 0.2 percentage points from June 2006 and below the national rate of 5.6 per cent.

– Specific tax reductions in 2007 include: Reducing the general Corporate Capital Tax rate on existing capital from 0.3 per cent to 0.15 per cent on July 1, 2007 and fully eliminating it on July 1, 2008; Reducing the general Corporate Income Tax rate from 14 per cent to 13 per cent on July 1, 2007 and reducing it further to 12 per cent on July 1, 2008; and increasing the small business threshold from $400,000 to $450,000 on July 1, 2007, and increasing it further to $500,000 on July 1, 2008.

– On January 1, 2007, the small business tax rate was reduced from five per cent to 4.5 per cent.

– Expansion of Innovation Place in Regina with a new building to be constructed at 2 Research Drive on the Regina campus. The three storey 6,596 square metre building will cost approximately $173 million and will complement the existing structure which will undergo extensive renovations.

– The sale of Crown petroleum and natural gas rights in June 2007 collected $14.1 million in revenue for the province. The new monies bring this year’s total revenue to $112.9 million, a 10 per cent increase over last year’s near-record pace of $102.2 million.

– This year the province announced the allocation of 550 new child care spaces to early learning and child care centres across the province at a cost of $1.4 million for 2007-08. Once all of these new spaces are in operation, the province will have increased spaces in Saskatchewan by 2,000; or 28 per cent in the past five years.

– Saskatchewan set oil and gas production records for the 2006 calendar year. A record breaking 761 horizontal wells were drilled beating the previous record of 668 set in 1997. Crude oil production totalled 24.84 million cubic metres, slightly more than the 2001 record of 24.75. A total of over 9.58 billion cubic metres of natural gas was produced, breaking 2005’s record of 9.49 billion cubic metres.

– In 2006 SaskEnergy delivered the lowest natural gas rates in Canada.

– Budget 2007-08 made record investments in infrastructure and communities, with the largest ever budgeted capital program of $534.8 million. This includes a record $127.3 million in revenue sharing for municipalities (a $30 million increase over Budget 2006-07), $58.2 million for municipal infrastructure, and $40 million to sport, culture, and recreation facilities through the Building Communities program.

– Saskatchewan introduced a new $15 Senior’s Drug Plan – the most significant expansion of Medicare in a generation.

– 14th consecutive balanced budget.

– In March 2007 Saskatchewan became among the first jurisdictions to introduce job protection for reservists.

– On March 16, 2007, it was announced that the Government of Saskatchewan committed $24.7 million to the University of Saskatchewan’s International Vaccine Centre (InterVac).

– In February 2007 the province announced a $100 million plan to revitalize Saskatchewan neighbourhoods with the greatest need. The plan includes $60 million to provide the single, largest expansion of HomeFirst for affordable housing for families in northern communities and the inner cities of Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and North Battleford. A further $40 million will support inner city initiatives in Regina and Saskatoon targeted at education and skills training and the development of healthy, vibrant neighbourhoods.

– The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program issued 1,027 nominations in 2006, which exceeded the year’s target by more than 200. Compared to the 401 nominations issued in 2005, this represents an increase of 150 per cent.

– Finally, in November 2006 Saskatchewan received its 16th credit rating upgrade since 1995 as Dominion Bond Rating Service (DBRS) boosted its long-term rating for the province from A (high) to AA (low). This came only three days after Moody’s Investor Service upgraded the Province’s credit rating from Aa2 to Aa1. The DBRS ranking marked the sixth credit rating upgrade for the province under Premier Calvert’s leadership.

Saskatchewan could use 12 less Conservative MPs in Ottawa.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper putting American energy needs first; Canadian public excluded from SPP negotiations

Canada: Energy pussycat

Stephen Harper likes to describe Canada as an "energy superpower." It's a catchy claim, but a ridiculous one.

Surely an "energy superpower" would be a country that, at the very least, is assertive in taking care of its own energy needs.

Not Canada. Indeed, Canada has been almost negligent in this regard, having surrendered an astonishing degree of control over our energy to the United States in the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since then, Canada has been more energy pussycat than superpower.

Now, 14 years later, Canada's energy is once again on the table, this time as a key part of a deal called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) being negotiated between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. The SPP negotiations have been underway since 2005 – with heavy input from business – but the process has completely excluded the public.

This pattern will be repeated next month when George W. Bush arrives in Montebello, Que., for an SPP summit with Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon. The leaders will get advice from an SPP council of business leaders but the public won't be allowed anywhere near the meeting – as the citizen group Council of Canadians discovered when it was blocked from booking a hall for a public meeting six kilometres from the summit.

One of the goals of the SPP negotiations is achieving "North American energy security." This boils down to ensuring that the U.S. – which has inadequate reserves to meet its voracious consumption – will have guaranteed access to Canada's reserves.

This may sound like a win-win proposition. The U.S. gets access to our energy and we get rich selling it to them. But what happens if there's an energy shortage?

A recent report by the International Energy Agency predicted an oil shortage within five years as worldwide supplies fail to keep pace with growing demand.

Canada has already compromised its ability to protect Canadians during a shortage by signing NAFTA, which prohibits us from cutting back energy exports to the U.S.

Now Ottawa seems poised to move us further down this road by committing Canada to the goal of "North American" – rather than Canadian – "energy security." This gives American needs the same weight as Canadian needs, even though it's primarily our energy that's being shared.

Canada doesn't have enough energy to supply both countries. With the U.S. devouring our once-ample reserves at a ferocious rate in recent years, we now have less than a 10-year supply of conventional oil, and less than nine years of proven natural gas reserves.

Yes, we have the massive oil sands, but developing them poses huge environmental problems.

Political economist Gordon Laxer discovered the inadequacy of Ottawa's planning when he recently asked the National Energy Board (NEB) about the security of our energy supply. He received an email back: "Unfortunately, the NEB has not undertaken any studies on security of supply."

In a speech in London last summer, Harper captured headlines with his boast about Canada being an "energy superpower." More significant, yet ignored, was his endorsement of the goal of "continental energy security," and his rejection of "self-serving, monopolistic political strategies" – that is, strategies that put Canadian energy needs first.

Some might consider putting Canadian needs first to be the job of the Canadian prime minister.

But apparently not Harper. And yet he'll be the one in charge of protecting our interests in Montebello next month when Bush pushes for an even deeper Canadian commitment to satisfying America's insatiable energy appetite.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

TILMA: City of Edmonton report validates “race to the bottom” concern

A recent letter to the Alberta government from the City of Edmonton appears to validate many of the concerns raised by opponents of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) – concerns which business groups, conservative think tanks, the media and the BC/Alberta governments have routinely condemned as alarmist and fear mongering.

At its July 11, 2007, meeting the City of Edmonton’s executive committee considered the following report from its Corporate Services Department: 2007COF065.

The report provides information outlining the process and timelines for discussions with the Province on the British Columbia/Alberta Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement.

According to the report the province has met with City of Edmonton representatives to discuss TILMA on at least two occasions: June 12 & June 19, 2007.

The report noted:

“It is apparent that the Province has not yet established a final position with respect to TILMA and the Municipalities, Academic Institutions, Schools and Hospitals (MASH) sector. However, they have scheduled a series of meetings with stakeholders in the MASH sector to receive and consider issues and concerns prior to negotiations with British Columbia to be held later this fall.”

As a follow-up the City of Edmonton forwarded a list of concerns and comments on the TILMA Agreement in advance of the negotiations.

The June 28, 2007, letter by Roger Rosychuk, the City of Edmonton’s finance manager, to Shawn Robbins, the Director of Internal Trade for the Province of Alberta identified numerous areas of concern. Among them are:

Article 3: No Obstacles

“It is essential that municipalities retain the ability to license and regulate business to meet Legitimate Objectives. We are concerned that current and potentially, future municipal bylaws and regulations will be ruled “off-side” with respect to TILMA, such as: Placing limitations on the number of businesses in a market sector; Requiring businesses in a market sector to install specific equipment or software; Prohibiting the sale and use of certain types or classes of products. Clarification is required to ensure that TILMA will not restrict municipal powers under the Municipal Government Act (in particular ss. 7 and 8) as the types of measures as described above may be considered trade restrictive.”

Article 4: Non-Discrimination

Edmonton has a tiered system of business licensing fees; one fee for Edmonton businesses and a higher fee for out-of-town businesses. Clarification is required to ensure that this Article does not affect municipal bylaws and the municipality’s powers to enact them.”

Article 5: Standards and Regulations

“There is concern that Standards and Regulations will be reduced to the lowest common denominator. It would help if wording could be included in TILMA stating that there will be no reduction of results, performance, or competence during the Standards and Regulation reconciliation process.”

Article 11: Investment

“The provisions of this Article may be construed to limit municipal powers to enact business licensing bylaws. This should be clarified to ensure that the municipality’s powers in this regard are not impaired.”

Article 12: Business Subsidies

“This provision restricts the ability of the parties to provide business subsidies. Municipalities may provide grants, loans, or tax incentives to certain entities if it benefits the municipality. This provision should be clarified to ensure that the municipality’s powers to do so are not restricted in any way.”

Article 13: Labour Mobility

“This provision should be clarified to ensure that where there are two standards, the more stringent or higher standard should be the one that is accepted by both Parties.”

Article 14: Procurement

“At $10,000, the TILMA tender threshold for goods is too low.”

“Under current construction market conditions, the AIT and TILMA thresholds for construction purchases ($250,000 and $100,000 respectfully) are so low that it essentially means that all construction purchases will be tendered.”

“There is concern that that we will be required to post to multiple tendering systems, such as the Alberta Purchasing Connection, BC-Bids, Coolnet Alberta, Coolnet Edmonton, Coolnet BC. Could the Parties commit to developing a single electronic tendering system?”

“There is no evidence to suggest that purchase price reductions generated by the potential of increased competition of distant suppliers will offset our additional operating costs. Will consideration be given to compensating municipalities for additional costs to implement and operate at the lowered TILMA tendering thresholds?”

“Sub section 4 considers the implementation of a bid protest mechanism. This is a particularly troubling concept because bid protests mechanisms always prevent work from proceeding until the protest is resolved. We believe there are sufficient legal remedies in place to allow unsuccessful bidders to seek redress through the courts if they feel they have been improperly treated during the tender-call and contract award process. The MASH Sector should be exempted from this provision.”

“Purchases by municipalities from municipally owned utilities should be exempted from the tender-call provisions of TILMA. It is not practicable for Edmonton to consider tendering for electrical energy and services because EPCOR is a City owned corporation.”

Articles 17 & 18: Ministerial Committee and Committee Structure and Procedures

“MASH Sector representation should be included at the Ministerial Committee.”

Article 21: Further Negotiations

“MASH Sector representation should be included at the time of further negotiations.”


“Articles 24 to 32 should be clarified to outline how the dispute resolution procedure will be applied to municipalities. These Articles should also explain the degree of municipal participation in dispute proceedings. In the event that the implementation of a Disputes Panel ruling causes the municipality to incur additional costs, the municipality should be able to opt-out or, alternatively, the Province should provide compensation.”

Article 32: Costs and Remuneration

“The Province should assume all MASH Sector costs for Panel Proceedings.”

Business Subsidies

“Sub-section 1c, Assistance for Recreation, should be clarified. Does this include subsidies for professional and semi-professional athletes or teams?”

Government Procurement

“Notwithstanding comments made under Article 14, Sub-section 2, Registered Professionals should be exempted from TILMA tender-call provisions.”

According to the meeting minutes the recommendation that the June 28, 2007, Corporate Services Department report 2007COF065 be received for information was carried.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

TILMA: Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison submission to Standing Committee on the Economy; stakeholder consultations may not include public, non-profits

Page 149 - July 16, 2007,
City of Prince Albert, City Council Agenda

At its July 16, 2007, meeting Prince Albert city council considered the following report from city manager Roman Martiuk: TILMA Impact Study (RPT#CM-07-11).

Prepared for the city’s executive committee, the July 4, 2007, report recommended: “That City Council authorizes funding of not more than $5,000 to conduct a TILMA Impact Study with the eleven other cities in Saskatchewan.”

The report notes that the City of Regina declined to participate and that the City of Saskatoon will be paying Regina’s share of the overall cost estimated at approximately $60,000.

The report also includes (as an attachment) a copy of Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison’s submission to the recent Standing Committee on the Economy hearings on the state of internal trade in the Province of Saskatchewan. The May 30, 2007, letter (reprinted below) was written on behalf of Saskatoon city council and outlines the purpose and strategy of the City Mayors’ Study.

The study process will include consultations with “key stakeholders in each community who would be directly affected…”

These stakeholders, using business subsides as an example, would likely include organizations like SREDA, the Riversdale Business Improvement District, the Partnership and The Saskatoon Home Builders’ Association along with a “number of community and business associations…”

What is not clear is whether the general public and all community associations will be invited to participate.

Furthermore, with respect to business subsidies, it appears that the focus will only be on those “to for-profit corporations”.

Business subsidies to non-profit corporations are currently exempt from TILMA, but 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 Canada’s impact assessment for the BC Government confirms this stating “TILMA is considered to be an improvement… since future negotiations can focus on the removal of the exceptions from the explicit exclusion list.”

British Columbia’s Minister of Economic Development Colin Hansen has stated many times that “TILMA is designed to eliminate subsidies.”

The City of Saskatoon provides cash grants to over 60 non-profit organizations annually. At its May 28, 2007, meeting Saskatoon city council approved the Social Services Component of the 2007 Assistance to Community Groups Cash Grants Program totaling $876,368 for 2007. As the exceptions in TILMA are removed this program could be put at risk. It appears that the City Mayors’ Study might not take this into consideration.

Assistance to Community Groups: Cash Grant 2007 - Social Services
City of Saskatoon - City Council Agenda - May 28, 2007

In his letter Atchison states that the report will “include areas where exclusions or other special provisions are recommended to make TILMA palatable to local citizens, should the decision be made to include cities in TILMA.”

Successfully negotiating significant changes to TILMA seem to be remote, though.

According to the official TILMA website the trade agreement focuses on two key goals:

- No obstacles: governments measures will not restrict or impair trade, investment or labour mobility between the two provinces.

- Non-discrimination: there will be no preferential treatment of a province’s people, investments and goods, except for justified actual cost-of-service differences.

In a speech to the BC Business Council and Canada West Foundation on December 13, 2006, BC Premier Gordon Campbell made it clear that Saskatchewan and Ontario were welcome to join TILMA provided that no changes were made to the agreement.

This was confirmed on June 6, 2007, when Shawn Robbins, the Director of Internal Trade in the Trade Policy Section of the Alberta Department of International and Intergovernmental Relations and Alberta’s chief negotiator for on TILMA, made a PowerPoint presentation to the Halifax-based right-wing think tank Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS). On the subject of accession the presentation states that: “Parties must accept its terms” and “Exceptions must be comparable to Alberta’s and B.C.’s.”

From June 6, 2007, TILMA presentation by
Shawn Robbins to AIMS

As long as Article 17 of TILMA remains it would seem that no exception is truly safe.


City of Prince Albert
Report Title: TILMA Impact Study (RPT#CM-07-11)
Date: July 4, 2007
Prepared By: Roman Martiuk, City Manager
Prepared For: Executive Committee


That City Council authorizes funding of not more than $5,000 to conduct a TILMA Impact Study with the eleven other cities in Saskatchewan.




The potential impacts of the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement were discussed at the City Mayors and Managers meeting in North Battleford this past May. The development of an independent study was agreed upon by the City Mayors Caucus in order that the potential effects may be better understood prior to taking a position.

The City of Saskatoon’s City Solicitor is working with a consultant to develop a study that will provide the necessary information to the eleven participating cities across the province.


The study is estimated at approximately $60,000. Regina has declined, however, Saskatoon will be paying Regina’s share bringing their total contribution to two thirds of the overall cost. The remaining ten cities will be responsible for contributing the remaining third based on their population. Prince Albert accounts for roughly 6% population of that group therefore costs will be in the $3,600 to $5,000, dependant upon the final cost of the study.


Correspondence from Mayor J. Sadlowski dated May 14, 2007.
Correspondence from Mayor D. Atchison dated May 30, 2007.

Respectfully Submitted,

Roman Martiuk
City Manager


Page 1 of May 30, 2007, submission by
Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison to
Standing Committee on the Economy

May 30, 2007

Standing Committee on the Economy
c/o Viktor Kaczkowski, Clerk
Room 239, Legislative Building
Regina, SK S4S 0B3

Dear Standing Committee on the Economy:

Saskatoon City Council, at its meeting held on May 28, 2007, agreed to proceed with an in-depth impact study, together with 11 other Saskatchewan cities, on the potential effect of the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement on Saskatoon and the other participating cities. City Council has asked that I provide a written submission on their behalf to the Committee, to explain what we are doing and why.


As you are aware, the Province on April 25, 2007 released a number of reports including the following:

1. A report by the Conference Board of Canada dated December 22, 2006 entitled “Assessing the Impact of Saskatchewan Joining the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement”;

2. A report by Professor Eric Howe of the Department of Economics, University of Saskatchewan dated January, 2007 entitled “The Economic Impact of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) on Saskatchewan; and

3. A report by John F. Helliwell, Professor, University of British Columbia entitled “Review of Conference Board of Canada’s Report – Assessing the Impact of Saskatchewan Joining the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement”.

Each of these reports refers to the potential effect of TILMA on Saskatchewan municipalities.

The Conference Board of Canada report, at pages 32-33 states:

“…it [TILMA] would potentially reduce the regulatory and legislative independence of municipal…government bodies, by binding their legislation according to the rules of the agreement. This could be disadvantageous in certain circumstances, where specific local concerns could come into play.”

The report by Professor Howe, at page 6 states:

“The disadvantageous of signing TILMA is reduced sovereignty. TILMA will restrict some abilities of…local governments to enact certain laws and requires that some regulations be standardized across the signing provinces.”

The report by Professor Helliwell, at page 4 states:

“In general, the combination of unrestricted private access to the dispute mechanisms combined with a commitment to neutrality of treatment, would make almost any…municipal programme subject to attack…

In general it would appear to be more efficient (and certainly easier to forecast the consequences) to try to identify cases where existing policies and regulations and rules are thwarting opportunities, and then harmonize as required…”

Our staff have made various enquiries, the result of which is that it is our understanding that no studies exist in either Alberta or British Columbia which provide a detailed analysis of how TILMA will impact municipalities. Nor do studies exist which analyze alternative methods to TILMA of implementing internal trade at the local level, such amending municipal legislation.

The City Mayors’ Study

The purpose of the City Mayors’ Study is not to look at TILMA’s overall impact on Saskatchewan. The study’s exclusive purpose is to examine the potential effects of TILMA on the existing jurisdiction of the 12 individual participating cities and to provide recommendations and comments, and potential alternative implementation strategies, on each aspect of TILMA where it affects a City’s jurisdiction.

The study is intended to be quite detailed and consists of three steps. The first step is to identify, with the assistance of a trade expert, as many of the known direct impacts on City jurisdiction as possible with as many specific examples as possible, so that the impact is easy for people to understand.

The second step is to take this information out to key stakeholders in each community, who would be directly affected by each impact. The goal would be to obtain feedback from them as to whether each jurisdictional change created by TILMA would be acceptable, unacceptable, acceptable with adjustments, etc. (I have attached, as an example of this process, how Saskatoon would deal with the business subsidy issue, to give the Committee a clearer understanding of the task we have set ourselves.) In addition, we would be looking to the various stakeholders to tell us if there was anything which cities do which they believe affects internal trade, and which we had not included in our examples. This is to make sure we are not missing anything.

The third step would be to prepare a report which could serve as a basis both for discussions and/or resolutions in each city, and for discussions with the Province (which we assume would be the Department of Government Relations) on the City jurisdictional issues which have been identified.

We would expect the report to include:

(a) those municipal impacts of TILMA which were acceptable to most cities;

(b) any municipal impacts of TILMA which were unacceptable to most cities; and

(c) an analysis of whether, at the municipal level, inclusion of cities in the comprehensive TILMA is the only option, or whether it is reasonable to look at excluding municipalities from TILMA itself while implementing the TILMA goals through amendments to The Cities Act. This last aspect will depend at least in part on whether regulations by cities are found to have much effect on internal trade. The less cities affect trade, the more likely it is that the areas where there is an impact could possibly be dealt with by statutory prohibitions rather than a comprehensive agreement such as TILMA. To this end, a legislative drafting expert will be included on the study team, to determine if, and/or how, an amendment to The Cities Act could be used, rather than TILMA, to achieve the same result, for each identified impact. This will tell us if this is a realistic alternative or not. It will also increase understanding of the impacts by our citizens. A draft amendment to The Cities Act, will have the excellent effect of making any proposed change to a City’s jurisdiction clear to everyone, even if it is never used.

Finally, the report would include areas where exclusions or other special provisions are recommended to make TILMA palatable to local citizens, should the decision be made to include cities in TILMA. Again, these would be the outcome from the feedback from stakeholders.


As you can see, the study we have undertaken is quite ambitious in scope. As a result, and particularly because of the desire for extensive feedback from local stakeholders, we do not expect the study to be complete before year end.

We understand that you have asked for final comments by the end of June and that we will miss that deadline. Unfortunately we did not receive the information which made this study imperative until after April 25, 2007, and we believe that the issue of internal trade as it affects cities is an important one for our communities.

We thank you for your time and consideration.


Donald J. Atchison



The Honourable Harry Van Mulligan, Minister of Government Relations
The Honourable Lorne Calvert, Premier
Mr. Brad Wall, Leader of Opposition
Mr. David Karwacki, Liberal Leader
Saskatoon MLAs
Saskatoon Council Members
Saskatchewan City Mayors

Business Subsidies Example

As the project is just beginning, all of the details have not been finalized. However, the following is an illustrative example of how one segment of the project might unfold in Saskatoon.

The TILMA principle on business subsidies is to prohibit signatory provinces (and cities) “…from using business subsidies to provide an advantage to an enterprise that results in material injury to a competing enterprise of the other Party; or entice or assist the relocation of an enterprise from the other Party; or distort investment decisions”. (Conference Board of Canada Report dated December 22, 2006, page 15) There are exceptions listed in the Agreement.

In the first stage, Saskatoon (along with the other 11 participating cities) would compile a complete list of the types of business subsidies (to for-profit corporations) which are currently provided in each City. Saskatoon’s list would include:
- economic development incentives for new businesses including tax abatements, cash contributions to matters such as primary sewage treatment and, at least potentially, provision of land at less than market value, or the clean-up of contaminated land at the City’s cost.

- economic development incentives (including all of the above as well as other incentives such as waiving fees for building permits) for specific purposes such as the Municipal Enterprise Zone (to encourage the location of businesses in the inner city) and downtown housing incentives (to encourage investments which, for example, convert warehouses to residential housing).

- tax increment financing programs (just approved by the Province in the latest Cities Act amendments), and affordable housing subsidies to for-profit corporations.
The trade expert on the team would advise as to:

(a) whether any or all of the business subsidies listed contravened TILMA;

(b) whether any or all of the business subsidies listed could be arguably included in the TILMA exemptions;

(c) whether any or all of the business subsidies listed could be defended before a trade tribunal as being within a TILMA “legitimate objective”;

(d) whether we were missing anything that he/she could identify as being potentially challenged as a business subsidy; and

(e) how an exception to TILMA to protect subsidies such as the Municipal Enterprise Zone and downtown housing subsidies might be worded, if such an exception was desirable or necessary.

The legislative drafting expert would draft amendments to The Cities Act which would prohibit all business subsidies equivalent to the effect of TILMA. He/she would also advise whether it would be possible to allow some subsidies in the Act and not others.

In addition, the legislative drafting expert would identify remedies available to a complainant under The Cities Act, compared to their remedies under TILMA should the City contravene the business subsidy prohibition.

In stage two, the City would take this information out to the key stakeholders for comments. We would want comments, for example, from SREDA on the overall issue of business incentives, from the Riversdale BID and Community Association on the impact on them if the Municipal Enterprise Zone was eliminated, and from the Partnership and housing developers on the impact of the removal of the downtown housing incentives. A number of community and business associations in areas likely to benefit from TIFFs would also have comments. The Saskatoon Home Builders, and other affected organizations, would be consulted if affordable housing incentives were affected.

The intent is to learn what people can support and what not. If there are areas which they cannot support, are adjustments possible? Also, how important are different aspects to them.

Finally, efforts would be made to identify any new issues or concerns regarding the City’s impact on internal trade, which we had missed.

In the third stage, all of this information will be correlated with that of the other participating cities, differences identified, and various options and/or recommendations provided. In turn, the business subsidy aspect of the study would be included in the overall options and/or recommendations of the report.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Black's National Post: even less attempt at "balance", pages sparkled with a new brand of ultra-right journalism: neoconservatism with cleavage

Post was wolf in sheep's clothing

Black's beloved paper posed as an underdog, but always served Canada's elite interests

July 14, 2007

Special to the Star

Listening to Conrad Black being interviewed by Peter Gzowski on the radio a number of years ago, I was surprised to hear Black suggest that I be "horsewhipped."

I knew he was angry about two lengthy articles I'd written about some of his business dealings, and I wouldn't have been surprised to hear him attack me, even urge that I be fired. But horsewhipped?

Of course, it was all part of Black's larger-than-life persona that included a high sense of self-drama that was always colourful in its excessiveness. Black also once described me in an article as a "not very bright, leftist reporter" – for which a number of people urged me to sue him for libel. This was an intriguing idea, especially given Black's own penchant for slapping intimidating lawsuits on journalists who took an interest in investigating some of his questionable business practices.

But there was the problem of proving his attack had damaged me. In truth, it's hard to imagine where my career as an anti-establishment author would be today without such colourful swats from Canada's most flagrant and widely detested business tycoon.

But if Conrad Black has been good for my career, his impact elsewhere has been less benign. He used his ample resources to create the National Post, a vehicle that helped him push the mainstream debate in Canada considerably to the right. Black relentlessly used the Post as a platform for himself and a host of like-minded commentators to ridicule the Canadian taste for equality and strong public programs, to denigrate what amounted to the Canadian way of doing things.

Black liked to present the Post as an irreverent, scrappy upstart of a newspaper that shook up the staid Canadian media scene and challenged the establishment with its "take-no-prisoners" approach. The only problem with that image was that, far from challenging the establishment, the Post was – and is – the establishment.

It may well have been a scrappy upstart, but from the beginning it was an attack-dog fighting on behalf of Canada's financial elite, who have never been shy about defending their own interests. Could anyone seriously argue that, before the Post came along, we had heard insufficiently from business on the subject of the need for tax cuts, free trade or deficit reduction?

Of course, before Black started the Post, the message of the financial elite had been championed relentlessly for decades by The Globe and Mail. What the Post added was a sassy new look to the staid corporate message. It offered up the same old thunderous voice of Big Business, but now cranked up to deafening levels, with even less attempt at "balance," and with more zing, including shots of celebrities in low-cut dresses. Its pages sparkled with a new brand of ultra-right journalism: neoconservatism with cleavage.

If the Post had a target, it was never the establishment, but rather the powerless. I recall how the Post, under Black, came out guns blazing against a court decision favouring a group of secretaries, file clerks and librarians who had waged a lengthy battle against the federal government for failing to follow its own pay equity laws.

The Post fearlessly called for a total repeal of pay equity laws, to prevent this sort of fairness from ever intruding into the Canadian workplace again. That'll show those uppity girls.

So much was Black part of the Canadian establishment that he managed to escape legal problems here for years, and would have likely escaped them entirely, had the U.S. authorities not eventually caught up with him.

In Canada, Black got a soft ride at the hands of authorities. He was investigated here in connection with a 1982 takeover bid of U.S. mining firm for possible violations of our securities laws. Two staff investigators of the Ontario Securities Commission recommended the commission lay a total of 26 securities charges against Black, his firm Norcen Energy and president Edward Battle.

But the decision whether to lay the charges was in the hands of the commission's eight-member board, who were all well-connected members of the Canadian financial elite. In the end, they decided not to prosecute one of their own.

Having been cleared by the establishment, Black went on bankroll a newspaper that loudly trumpeted the rights of the affluent, while posing as a scrappy upstart taking on the establishment.

Canadian public completely shut out of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) process

Continental integration on the march - comment

Toronto Star
July 10, 2007

It's a great irony that, while the United States has probably never been less popular among Canadians than in the era of George W. Bush, plans to integrate Canada more deeply into the U.S. have been proceeding at a brisk clip.

The threat of Canada being absorbed into the U.S. has traditionally provoked strong reactions here, as the pitched electoral battles over the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the 1980s and '90s attest.

But the issue seems to have largely disappeared in recent years, leaving the impression that the push for deeper integration has stopped or that Canadians no longer care about it. Neither is true.

Rather, what's happened is that those pushing for deeper Canada-U.S. integration – principally members of the corporate elite on both sides of the border – have become more sophisticated in their strategy. Rather than loudly trumpeting their agenda, they've made their push largely invisible.

Their latest vehicle is the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). Since it was officially launched by the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico in March 2005, it's operated largely under the radar, even though it deals with some of the most important issues a nation faces – national security and energy, as well as trade.

Given the centrality of these issues, one would have thought that any changes – especially changes that would make Canada more like the U.S. – should involve wide consultation with the Canadian people.

But exactly the opposite is happening. The public has been completely shut out of the SPP process. The key advisory body in the SPP is an all-business group called the North American Competitiveness Council, made up of 30 CEOs from the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

It's fine to have input from business, but why only business? Corporations have interests which are not necessarily the same as the broader public interest; indeed, these two sets of interests are often in conflict.

Take the small example of the harmonization of regulations involving pesticides. This harmonizing of standards – in the interest of removing "trade barriers" – has been underway for more than a decade under NAFTA, but it is now being fast-tracked under the SPP.

So, as the Ottawa Citizen reported in May, Canada is raising the limits on pesticide residue permitted on fruits and vegetables, to bring Canadian standards into line with weaker U.S. standards.

As a citizen and an eater of fruits and vegetables, this alarms me. Canada's standards are already weak enough. For example, both Canada and the U.S. permit the pesticide permethrin to be used at levels 400 times higher than the European Union permits; we allow methoxychlor at levels 1,400 times above the European limit, according to a study by Canadian environmental lawyer David Boyd.

Shouldn't our government be tightening our standards, not quietly watering them down further to make things easier for those in the business of selling these – and other – products?

Regulatory harmonization is just one small area that the SPP is working on. I'll deal with the more contentious issues – security and energy – in a later column, all in the interest of setting the stage for next month, when Bush arrives in Montebello, Que., for what he, Stephen Harper and Mexican president Felipe Calderon are no doubt hoping will be an opportunity to quietly discuss the SPP and weigh the advice of their business council.

No public consultations have been planned for Montebello. Indeed, security measures will ensure the leaders hear as little as possible from the people.

Linda McQuaig can be reached at

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Developer Remai Ventures destroys historic Canadian Legion building in Saskatoon; City Council & Meewasin Valley Authority do nothing

“They're losing the last heritage building in the south end of Saskatoon. It has historical significance because it was built by veterans of the First World War with their own hands. It wasn't a dramatic building. It wasn't spectacular. It wasn't huge, but it was a good-looking building.”
– Victoria Neufeldt, president, Saskatoon Heritage Society

“We try to draw attention to the plight of such buildings. These are fully functional buildings. It could have been converted into another use, whether it be a museum or offices. (But) it doesn’t look like there was a lot of public sympathy in Saskatoon for it.”
– Al Rosseker, executive director, Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society

Developer Remai Ventures Inc. has made good on its promise to destroy the historic Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 63, building located at 315 19th Street East in downtown Saskatoon.

Starting on the building’s west side F. Peters Excavating began demolition on Thursday, June 28, 2007 with the wreckage transported to the landfill.

According to the City of Saskatoon Building Standards Branch the demolition permit was issued on May 23, 2007.

Designed by legion member and prominent Saskatoon architect David Webster, the hall was built in 1929 by local veterans of the First World War and was the last remaining piece of built heritage in the city’s historic South Downtown. The property, which is comprised of two parcels totaling 0.25 acres, was sold to Remai Ventures in February 2006 for a reported $1-million. The Information Services Corporation of Saskatchewan online database shows the value of property as $1-million which seems to confirm the purchase price.

In Locals salute fallen Legion Building (SP June 29, 2007), Curtis Zwack, Remai’s director of real estate said “We don't have any plans yet for the Legion site” and called it a “holding property.”

Apparently none of the brick was salvaged for reuse in another building. Zwack claims the exterior brick was brittle because of the heating and cooling over the years. He also said it would be “extremely tedious” and time consuming to take the building apart brick by brick without having the bricks shatter.

The destruction of the Legion Building brings to a close one of the sorriest chapters of the City of Saskatoon’s redevelopment of the South Downtown. In 2004, the former Saskatoon Technical Collegiate (1931) was demolished and later cited by the Heritage Canada Foundation as the worst loss of heritage in Canada that year. The pending demise of the legion hall made the Foundation’s 2007 Top 10 Most Endangered Places in Canada list and was put on a “demolition watch” by the Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society. The Saskatoon Heritage Society supported preserving both buildings.

The tragic loss of the buildings happened on the watch of Mayor Don Atchison. The City did nothing to stop their demolition, and neither did the Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA).

The MVA is a conservation organization dedicated to conserving the natural and cultural heritage resources of the South Saskatchewan River Valley in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and area. Part of its jurisdiction includes the land south of 19th Street where the Legion Building and Technical Collegiate once stood.

Meewasin’s Board of Directors is comprised of three partners: the Province of Saskatchewan, the City of Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan.

Among the organization’s stated goals and principles are:

– To protect the natural and heritage resources of the Meewasin Valley
– To develop and encourage projects which enhance the natural and heritage resources and add to the quality of life in Saskatoon
– The need for recreation and other development should be balanced with the need for natural and heritage resource conservation
– Significant natural and heritage resources should be preserved

The MVA claims it does not have the power to stop demolition. This is debatable since it has bylaw making power that, if used, might have saved either or both buildings. Regardless, the MVA certainly had the power to, at the very least, publicly advocate for the preservation of the buildings but never did. It remained absolutely silent which was likely due in part to politics at the Board level. Nevertheless the organization clearly abandoned its mandate. Its focus became one of interpretation rather than preservation or conservation. The result is that any hope of a tangible and meaningful connection to the city’s past in the South Downtown (now called River Landing) has been lost forever.

(Photos by Joe Kuchta)

June 27, 2007 - 9:00 a.m.
One Day Before Demolition

June 28, 2007 - 4:45 p.m.
Demolition Day

June 28, 2007 - 4:45 p.m.

June 29, 2007 - 8:30 a.m.

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July 4, 2007 - 1:00 p.m.

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July 11, 2007 - 9:00 a.m.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

TILMA: City of Calgary report identifies potential areas of negative impact; negotiations with province ongoing

At its July 5, 2007, meeting the City of Calgary’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee considered City Manager Office Report IGA2007-07: Addressing the Impacts of the British Columbia - Alberta Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement on the City of Calgary.

Present were Mayor D. Bronconnier, Chair, Alderman J. Ceci, Vice Chair, Alderman L. Fox-Mellway, Alderman M. King, Alderman H. Larocque, Alderman G. Lowe. Also in attendance were Alderman D. Hodges, City Manager O. Tobert, General Manager D. Watson, Intergovernmental & Partnership Liaison B. King and Legislative Assistant H. Houston.

According to the two-page report the City has so far identified the following areas where TILMA may have a negative impact once it is fully implemented:

– Procurement
– Employment and recruitment
– Business licensing
– Dispute resolution process

The report notes: “The City has participated in TILMA consultations with the Government of Alberta on two occasions” and “Administration will continue to participate in consultations with the Government of Alberta to ensure that TILMA does not negatively impact how The City operates.” Additionally, “it is important to recognize that this is a bilateral agreement. Any changes to the agreement advanced by The City will require the agreement of the governments of both Alberta and B.C. Because of this feature, the timeline for The City to negotiate changes to certain TILMA provisions is limited.”

The Committee minutes show that a motion was passed recommending City Council: “Direct Administration to report back on the progress of the British Columbia – Alberta Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) consultations no later than the end of 2007.”

The following is excerpted from the report:
TILMA does not currently apply to municipalities. However, the agreement will apply to municipalities once it is fully implemented on 2009 April 01. The two year transition period will permit the governments of both Alberta and B.C. to reconcile certain measures such as legislation, regulations, standards, policies, and guidelines related to trade, investment, and labour mobility.

The City has participated in TILMA consultations with the Government of Alberta on two occasions. On 2007 April 18, officials from the Department of International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations met with The City’s Senior Management Team. Subsequently, on 2007 June 04, representatives from Intergovernmental Affairs and Law participated in TILMA consultations with the same provincial officials and other area municipalities.

The 2007 June 04 consultation identified that operational areas such as procurement, employment and recruitment, and business licensing may be affected when TILMA becomes applicable to municipalities. At this meeting, Administration identified some general governance matters that may affect The City once TILMA is fully implemented. For example, the issue of quotas that limit or restrict the number of licenses a municipality may grant (e.g., Taxi Licenses) was identified as a potential source of contention. Another area of concern is the dispute resolution process. Specifically, it was identified that The City may not have the opportunity to actively defend its position before the dispute resolution panel, should The City be found to be non-compliant. As TILMA currently reads, only the Governments of Alberta and B.C. will have the opportunity to appear before the dispute resolution panel and defend the actions of the governing entities in their particular province.

Notwithstanding those concerns, Administration will continue to participate in consultations with the Government of Alberta to ensure that TILMA does not negatively impact how The City operates. Representatives from potentially affected business units, Intergovernmental Affairs and Law are working together to provide the Government of Alberta a written submission which addresses any potential problems on how TILMA may impact certain policies and operations of The City.

Although, and as stated earlier, TILMA does not apply to municipalities until 2009, it is important to recognize that this is a bilateral agreement. Any changes to the agreement advanced by The City will require the agreement of the governments of both Alberta and B.C. Because of this feature, the timeline for The City to negotiate changes to certain TILMA provisions is limited.

Going forward, Administration will provide periodic updates to Council, through the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, on the status and results of the TILMA consultations. At that time, Administration would be in a better position to ascertain the implications and risks that TILMA may have on The City’s policies and operations.


Given that TILMA does not yet apply to municipalities, there are currently no negative impacts on the policies and operations of The City of Calgary. However, because The City is actively involved in the consultation process, there is an opportunity to try and ensure that the provisions of TILMA do not restrict or inhibit the ability of The City to make operational and policy decisions which protect the public interest of all Calgarians.

At this time, no social implications are identified.

At this time, no environmental implications are identified.

Economic (External)
At this time, no economic implications are identified.

At this time, there are no business plan or budget implications arising from TILMA. Such implications will be determined once consultations between the Government of Alberta and municipalities have concluded.

No apparent risks are identified at this time. However, it is important that The City actively participates in the consultation process so as to minimize and eliminate any potential risks once TILMA is fully implemented.

1. The British ColumbiaAlberta Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement Fact Sheet.
2. The British Columbia – Alberta Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement: How does the Agreement affect municipalities?

Approvals: City Manager (O.Tobert), Director (D. Hrynyk), Manager (B. King), Author (M. Jordan)

Monday, July 09, 2007

TILMA: Premiers Gordon Campbell and Ed Stelmach take their peddling act to Iqaluit, next stop Moncton

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and BC Premier Gordon Campbell
(Photo: Government of Alberta)

As it turns out not even the City of Iqaluit is immune from the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) controversy or from the shameless hucksters desperately trying to sell it.

According to B.C. Premier shines spotlight on free trade (Globe and Mail, July 7, 2007) the beleaguered trade agreement “wasn’t even on the agenda” yet that didn’t seem to keep Premiers Gordon Campbell and Ed Stelmach from peddling their reckless trade deal at the annual western premiers conference held in the Nunavut capital.

The issue “stole some of the spotlight” away from other issues that were discussed during the two days of meetings as both premiers complained about the lack of interest shown by other provinces in signing on to TILMA.

“I think it’s time for us to decide whether we’re a country or not. I think it’s ridiculous that someone can be trained as a teacher in Manitoba and isn’t able to teach in British Columbia,” British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell told reporters at the close of the conference.

“When are we going to decide we’re a country? When are we going to decide that the free movement of goods and people and services is something that’s part of what a national identity should be?” (Western premiers want trade barriers dropped, The ChronicleHerald, July 7, 2007)

It seems Campbell would have people believe the preposterous notion that our national identity is somehow at stake and unless provinces and territories come to their senses and immediately climb on board his TILMA bandwagon Canada’s 140-year existence as a confederation will be in jeopardy.

What is ridiculous is the spectacle of Campbell flogging to the rest of the country a trade deal that many people in his own province want little or nothing to do with.

In B.C. cities balk at touted trade deal (June 28, 2007) the National Post reported that TILMA “is the subject of a deepening revolt in British Columbia”. On June 26, 2007, Vancouver city council passed a motion to “call on the Province of British Columbia to exempt municipalities” until it and other B.C. towns and cities have been fully consulted by the provincial government.

According to the article the vote “placed Vancouver, the largest jurisdiction inside the B.C.-Alberta trade, investment and labour mobility agreement, on a list of 20 other B.C. governments that have passed similar motions” and “Several municipalities and the B.C. School Trustees Association have demanded complete exemptions -- regardless of consultations --and even the B.C. Library Association has passed a motion opposing the agreement.”

This does not include the concerns that have been raised by the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the cities of Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton and Yellowknife. Nor does it include the many organizations and individuals that have spoken out against the agreement. Even the conservative Opposition Saskatchewan Party has said it would not sign the trade deal -- “in its present form”.

In April 2005, the Minister of Government Relations, the Honourable Harry Van Mulligen, pursuant to Rule 146(2), requested that the Standing Committee on the Economy enquire into the state of internal trade in Saskatchewan.

From June 5 to 8, 2007 in Regina, and from June 11 to 14, 2007 in Saskatoon, the committee conducted hearings for the purpose of receiving testimony from interested parties.

Over the course of nine days of hearings, 81 representatives from 47 organizations, institutions, and associations, as well nine private citizens appeared before the committee.

In addition, the committee received a total of 91 written submissions, 61 from those who appeared before the committee and another 30 from those who chose to submit their comments in writing only.

An analysis of the report of the Standing Committee on the Economy reveals that groups and individuals opposed to TILMA outnumbered its supporters by approximately 4-1.

As for Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach his appearance at the close of the western premiers conference fared no better.

In Provinces sluggish on free-trade agreement: B.C., Alta. (July 6, 2007) CBC News reported Stelmach saying that he and Campbell want the other provinces to agree to TILMA.

“We have to deal with issues that are trade barriers within the country of Canada,” Stelmach said. “They’re significant, they’re impeding trade, they’re increasing costs. And we want to take this agreement further and we’ve had, of course, interest paid by other premiers.”

Like many of TILMA’s supporters Stelmach has made no attempt to list, or estimate the cost of, genuine trade barriers between provinces.

Stelmach’s comments are at odds with the work done by trade and economic consultants Kathleen Macmillan and Patrick Grady for Industry Canada and Human Resources and Social Development Canada. Their research paper Inter-Provincial Barriers to Internal Trade in Goods, Services and Flows of Capital: Policy, Knowledge Gaps and Research Issue (March 31, 2007) noted that despite “a thorough airing in ongoing hearings into the internal market being held by the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. Yet there remains a scarcity of hard data and good research to substantiate the impression that barriers do, in fact, impose a significant cost on our economy.”

MacMillan and Grady went on to say that “Academic studies have, by and large, concluded that internal trade barriers have a minimal effect on overall gross domestic product (GDP). International institutions such as the International Monetary Fund also regard Canada’s internal market as functioning relatively free from impediments. Internal trade practitioners have a similar view,” and “Very few barriers remain that were explicitly designed as protectionist measures.”

Brian R. Copeland, a Professor of Economics at the University of British Columbia, was contracted by the BC Ministry of Employment and Investment to review the empirical evidence on the importance of interprovinical barriers to trade in Canada. His report Interprovincial Barriers to Trade: An updated review of the evidence (January 1998) concluded that “there is no evidence to support the claim that interprovincial trade barriers are causing large efficiency costs in the Canadian economy” and “that currently available studies do not support the claim that interprovincial trade barriers lead to costs to the Canadian economy of the order of 1% of GDP. Rather, the studies suggest that the cost is less than one-tenth of that.”

“The reality is that interprovincial trade barriers are already very low,” said Copeland. And this was nearly ten years ago.

Stelmach’s remarks also contradict recent statements made by some of his fellow TILMA supporters. 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 Saskatchewan is “the lowest cost jurisdiction…with fewer trade barriers and restrictions than either B.C. or Alberta.”

The only sensible comments to come out of the western premiers conference wrap-up seem to be from Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

In B.C. takes aim at national identity (July 7, 2007) the National Post reported:
Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert said his province has concerns about the protection of their Crown corporations and about the ability of local governments to make decisions on behalf of their citizens.

“We take the fundamental philosophical position that no agreement should supplant the democratic right of communities and populations to make their own decisions,” he said.

Mr. Calvert also wondered about the need for such an agreement, saying there hasn't been anything stopping people from Saskatchewan from moving to Alberta for work.

Both Mr. Calvert and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer say they agree with the spirit of TILMA. But Mr. Doer questioned the agreement's ability to arbitrate disputes between jurisdictions and with professional organizations.

“I'm going to watch which one of these people that talk at a press conference have the guts to take on, say, an accountants group,” he said. “If you can’t get the professional organizations to agree, you have to legislate over top of them. That's going to be the issue of the next couple of years.”

Mr. Doer touted a labour mobility action plan he signed in September with the federal government, which he hopes will be ratified when the premiers meet later this summer in Moncton, N.B.
Doer’s action plan stems from a September 7, 2006, announcement by the Committee of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers responsible for Internal Trade that states “by April 1, 2009, Canadians will be able to work anywhere in Canada without restrictions on labour mobility.”

The action plan also calls for progress towards an “Agreement within twelve months on revisions to the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) to ensure that there is an effective, fair, efficient, accountable and enforceable dispute resolution process.”

“Ministers also agreed to consider the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement signed by Alberta and British Columbia and the Quebec-Ontario Cooperation Agreement with a view to identifying elements that could be imported within the AIT,” the news release said.

Stelmach and Campbell would of course know this but dragged TILMA into the spotlight at the western premiers conference anyway.

The two premiers have promised to take their sorry act to Moncton, N.B., next month where all of Canada’s premiers and territorial leaders will discuss the standardized accreditation and mobility of labour at the Council of the Federation meeting. They'll try to convince everybody to consider signing on to the agreement.

This comes as no surprise since TILMA requires both provinces to “support ongoing trade and investment liberalization both nationally and internationally.”

Additionally, Article 22 of TILMA states: “Parties shall cooperate to promote their mutual interests nationally and internationally” and “shall continue to jointly advocate for the removal of any Federal Government measures that operate to restrict, impair or distort trade, investment and labour mobility between the Parties.”

Next year’s western premiers conference will be held in Saskatoon.