Count me among those pleasantly surprised by the right-wing Saskatchewan Partyâ€™s rejection of TILMA, a complete reversal of its previous position. I think that labourâ€™s extensive participation in the legislative-committee hearings helped toÂ convince the Saskatchewan Party that (1.) there is significant opposition to signing TILMA and (2.) there are genuine problems with the agreement.
During the first week of hearings in Regina, Saskatchewan Party MLAs mainly seemed interested in dismissing criticism of TILMA. During the second week in Saskatoon, they seemed more interested inÂ seriously considering the agreementâ€™s pitfalls. We had a reasonably good sense that the governing NDP would oppose TILMA, but changing the Saskatchewan Partyâ€™s stance is a major accomplishment.
The Saskatchewan Partyâ€™s members of the Standing Committee on the Economy deserve some credit.Â However, the Saskatchewan Partyâ€™s main motive is to neutralize what could be a wedge issue between it and the NDP in the upcoming provincial election. Of course, the risk remains that a potential future Saskatchewan Party government would sign TILMA, possibly after pretending to renegotiate it. Its leader, Brad Wall, still seems to think that the agreementâ€™s main problem was Saskatchewanâ€™s absence from the initial negotiations. Clearly, the best way of keeping Saskatchewan out of TILMA would be to re-elect the NDP.
Yesterday, the Standing Committee on the Economy released its report, which is essentially a synopsis of the hearings. My submission to the Committee is available here. A collection of documents on TILMA, many of which the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour submitted, is available here.
PS – The Fourth Meridian is the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.
UPDATE (July 5): Joe Kuchta has catalogued the Saskatchewan Partyâ€™s statements on TILMA.
Sask. Party rejects TILMA
The Leader-Post (Regina)
Friday, June 29, 2007
Page: D1 / FRONT
Section: Business & Agriculture
Byline: Angela HallÂ Â
Surprising groups that believed the Opposition to be friendly to a controversial B.C.-Alberta trade pact, the Saskatchewan Party said Thursday it wouldn’t sign on to the agreement.
The Sask. Party has outstanding concerns about the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement as it is today, Leader Brad Wall said.
“I think there is a concern there’s not enough answers to questions. Were we the government today, we would have to be pragmatic and not sign on to an agreement,” said Wall, who acknowledged his party had liked the agreement from an economic and Western co-operation standpoint. The announcement came as an all-party legislative committee tabled a report Thursday outlining what it heard during public consultations earlier this month on the possibility of joining TILMA.
Government Relations Minister Harry Van Mulligen said cabinet will consider the report and will likely announce a decision on TILMA by the end of summer, if not sooner.
“I want to carefully consider the views that people have put forward, but at the same time (I) want to ensure that cabinet is in a position to make a timely decision in this matter,” said Van Mulligen, who was travelling and had not yet studied the report. He said the Sask. Party’s stance appeared to be a surprise reversal in its position.
But Wall said it’s “unfortunate” the government didn’t take part in the TILMA negotiations between B.C. and Alberta from the start because it might have resulted in a more agreeable deal.
There are specific areas of concern in the present TILMA, such as whether provincial “new growth tax incentives” would be exempt, Wall said. He said he is also unclear about whether that kind of incentives at the municipal level, such as tax abatements to new businesses, could be lost.
Wall also said while there was “fear-mongering” on the issue of Crown corporations under TILMA, there are still questions about what constitutes a commercial operation.
“In other words, what division of a Crown is commercial, and so therefore is not exempt?” Wall said.
He said the Sask. Party is still in favour of working on trade agreements between provinces, and would like to see occasional joint cabinet meetings between Western provinces, similar to what B.C. and Alberta hold.
For the complete article, click here.
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