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Stopping TILMA in the Territories

It seems that, having failed to lure any other provinces into TILMA, the Premiers of Alberta and BC have turned their attention northward. Whereas the understanding was that Saskatchewan would need to sign the agreement before trying to negotiate any changes or exemptions, territorial officials have apparently been invited to begin such discussions without having to make an initial commitment.

I was in Whitehorse last week, along with Carleen Pickard and Larry Hubich, to support the Yukon Federation of Labour’s campaign against TILMA. We had a series of meetings with politicians, union leaders, civil servants, and the public. Carleen emphasized TILMA’s municipal consequences and why BC municipalities oppose it.  Larry addressed the deal’s anti-democratic character and Saskatchewan’s rejection of it.

As usual, I focused on debunking TILMA’s supposed economic benefits. Most of what I said is already posted elsewhere on this website. It does not appear that any “internal barriers” have restrained the territories from selling goods and services to the rest of Canada since Nunavut was created in 1999:

Changes in Territorial Exports, 1999 – 2006

 

 To Other Countries

 To the Rest of Canada

 Yukon

 – 9 %

 + 41 %

 NWT

 + 137 %

 + 78 %

 Nunavut

 – 61 %

 + 91 %

Going back a full decade makes the comparison even more striking for the Yukon: exports to other countries fell by 32% and exports to the rest of Canada rose by 42% from 1997 through 2006.

Nevertheless, the governing Yukon Party seems favourable to TILMA and did not meet with us. The NDP firmly opposes the deal. The Liberals remain on the fence, as reported by the Yukon News:

AN ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Government silence on TILMA insulting

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

By Jeremy Warren

The Yukon government must break its silence on a controversial trade pact before the debate’s rhetoric spirals out of control, says the Liberal Party.

It is currently studying the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), a free-trade pact between Alberta and BC that could include the territory.

The Liberals are not taking a position on TILMA.

But the government should be more open about the work it is doing to study the trade agreement, otherwise the debate is skewed, said Liberal economic development critic Don Inverarity.

. . .

With labour and economic experts in town to talk to government officials about TILMA – at the invitation of the Yukon Federation of Labour – the Liberals are asking for cooler heads to prevail.

Given that the territories rely on business subsidies, preferential procurement, and local-hiring policies to a far greater extent than the provinces, one might expect local businesses and municipalities to oppose TILMA. Indeed, the City of Yellowknife has done so. However, conservative ideology and deference to the territorial government seem to be pushing the Chamber of Commerce and City of Whitehorse in a different direction:

Guest speakers lined up for tomorrow’s TILMA forum

The Whitehorse Daily Star

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stephanie Waddell

The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce has turned down an offer by the Yukon Federation of Labour to speak at a town hall meeting Wednesday night about a trade agreement between Alberta and B.C.

Chamber president Rick Karp said this morning it seems to the chamber the town hall meeting won’t be balanced, as it’s part of the federation’s campaign against the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA).

The pact took effect in B.C. and Alberta this year, but is under a two-year transitional period.

While the chamber hasn’t taken a position on it yet, Karp said it supports the Yukon government going through it clause-by-clause to see the impacts, then having a public consultation on it.

“Quite honestly, the chamber doesn’t know,” he said, adding that had the chamber decided to take part in tomorrow’s meeting, it seemed it would be placed in a situation of having supported TILMA.

“That’s not our position,” he said.

The chamber will be hosting two of the people who drafted the agreement for its monthly luncheon in November.

Wednesday’s meeting will feature Canadian Labour Congress economist Erin Weir, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich and Council of Canadians regional organizer Carleen Pickard to speak about the deal between the two provinces.

TILMA under municipalities’ scrutiny

The Whitehorse Daily Star

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stephanie Waddell

Municipalities in the territory are indeed looking at the impact a trade agreement between B.C. and Alberta could have in the Yukon.

“This certainly is on the radar for municipalities in the Yukon,” Whitehorse city councillor Jan Stick told a town hall meeting Wednesday night at the High Country Inn.

Stick was among the approximately 50 people who turned out for a session about the Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between the two provinces.

The session was part of the Yukon Federation of Labour’s campaign against the deal. The federation has argued it would take away the government’s ability to make decisions in the local interest.

While the territory is not a signatory to the agreement, government officials are looking at it.

. . .

While the City of Whitehorse cancelled a meeting scheduled with the three representatives, Stick noted municipalities in the territory are still working to learn exactly what TILMA is.

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