Main menu:

History of RPE Thought

Posts by Tag

RSS New from the CCPA

  • 2019 Federal Budget Analysis February 27, 2019
    Watch this space for response and analysis of the federal budget from CCPA staff and our Alternative Federal Budget partners. More information will be added as it is available. Commentary and Analysis  Aim high, spend low: Federal budget 2019 by David MacDonald (CCPA) Budget 2019 fiddles while climate crisis looms by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood (CCPA) Organizational Responses Canadian Centre for Policy […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Boots Riley in Winnipeg May 11 February 22, 2019
    Founder of the political Hip-Hop group The Coup, Boots Riley is a musician, rapper, writer and activist, whose feature film directorial and screenwriting debut — 2018’s celebrated Sorry to Bother You — received the award for Best First Feature at the 2019 Independent Spirit Awards (amongst several other accolades and recognitions). "[A] reflection of the […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • CCPA-BC welcomes Emira Mears as new Associate Director February 11, 2019
    This week the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office is pleased to welcome Emira Mears to our staff team as our newly appointed Associate Director. Emira is an accomplished communications professional, digital strategist and entrepreneur. Through her former company Raised Eyebrow, she has had the opportunity to work with many organizations in the […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Study explores media coverage of pipeline controversies December 14, 2018
    Supporters of fossil fuel infrastructure projects position themselves as friends of working people, framing climate action as antithetical to the more immediately pressing need to protect oil and gas workers’ livelihoods. And as the latest report from the CCPA-BC and Corporate Mapping Project confirms, this framing has become dominant across the media landscape. Focusing on pipeline […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Study highlights ‘uncomfortable truth’ about racism in the job market December 12, 2018
    "Racialized workers in Ontario are significantly more likely to be concentrated in low-wage jobs and face persistent unemployment and earnings gaps compared to white employees — pointing to the “uncomfortable truth” about racism in the job market, according to a new study." Read the Toronto Star's coverage of our updated colour-coded labour market report, released […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Progressive Bloggers


Recent Blog Posts

Posts by Author

Recent Blog Comments

The Progressive Economics Forum

The National Post on TILMA

On Friday, the National Post’s lead editorial suggested that inter-provincial trade barriers are significant enough to validate the Quebec-separatist view that “Canada is not a real country.” The following edited response from yours truly is printed as a “Counterpoint” in today’s edition.

UPDATE (August 16): BC’s Minister of Economic Development has responded to my op-ed.

In a recent editorial, the National Post called for all provinces to join the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), which came into force between Alberta and British Columbia in April (“Let TILMA Grow,” Aug. 10).

According to the Post, TILMA is needed to eliminate inter-provincial trade barriers, “which, in certain sectors, actually make it easier for Canadian firms to trade with the United States than Canadian firms in different provinces.” Yet the Post identifies no sector for which this claim is accurate. From 2000 through 2006, inter-provincial exports grew four times faster than Canada’s international exports.

Canadian courts have consistently struck down provincial attempts to directly interfere with inter-provincial trade. What the Post calls “regulatory non-tariff trade barriers” are merely differences in provincial policy that may or may not have side-effects on inter-provincial commerce. These include occupational certification, procurement and trucking registration. The Post approvingly notes that Alberta and B.C. “are now bound to recognize the other’s occupational standards.” But the effect of this approach will be to turn the lowest standard in any province into the minimum standard for every province.

Prior to TILMA, all provinces except Quebec and B.C. maintained a common set of Red Seal standards for many skilled trades, ensuring inter-provincial mobility for tradespeople. Under TILMA, Alberta employers must accept people trained to lower standards in B.C. A far better approach would be for B.C. to adopt Red Seal standards.

The existing Agreement on Internal Trade prevents provincial governments from favouring local suppliers. TILMA will extend this regime to municipalities, school boards and Crown corporations. This is supposed to generate savings by expanding the pool of available suppliers for any given job. But at the municipal level, the cost of complying with arm’s-length procurement rules is likely to eclipse any potential cost savings.

Registering in multiple provinces undoubtedly creates a small additional cost for trucking companies under current rules. However, the Post‘s suggestion that these companies are returning significant numbers of trucks empty to avoid registering in other provinces is unfounded. TILMA would encourage companies to register only in whichever province maintains the lowest standards.

Of course, provinces might reasonably choose to adopt common standards in some areas, but doing so hardly requires TILMA’s legalistic approach. This agreement’s enforcement mechanism allows private interests to sue for up to $5-million based on alleged violations by provincial governments, municipalities and school boards.

Rather than simply preventing measures that are discriminatory against businesses in other provinces, TILMA purports to “eliminate barriers that restrict or impair trade, investment or labour mobility.” The problem is that almost everything that governments do influences investment opportunities and could be challenged. TILMA’s limited, temporary exceptions protect a policy only if the government can prove that there is no conceivable alternative policy.

Commercial tribunals that meet behind closed doors, rather than provincial or federal courts, will interpret the extremely broad language of this 36-page agreement. Uncertainty about potential interpretations is already having a chilling effect on regulators in Alberta and B.C. who fear legal challenges. It makes no sense to sign a comprehensive agreement if there is no guarantee that tribunals will restrict its provisions to instances of genuine trade barriers.

Saskatchewan is the only province to have held public consultations on TILMA. Both the governing NDP and the right-wing Saskatchewan Party rejected the agreement because it severely constrains the capacity of provincial governments, municipalities and school boards to act in the public interest.

All provinces should join Saskatchewan in negotiating specific solutions to any minor inter-provincial barriers that may exist. At a minimum, Alberta, B.C. and any provinces considering joining TILMA should hold public consultations on this sweeping agreement.

Erin Weir is an economist with the Canadian Labour Congress. His presentation to Saskatchewan’s public hearings on joining TILMA is available at

Enjoy and share:


Comment from Chris
Time: August 26, 2007, 12:04 am

TILMA, brought to you by the same folks pushing the SPP….FYI

Write a comment

Related articles