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The Progressive Economics Forum

Manufacturing TILMA consent

Keith Reynolds from CUPE has done some extensive FOI requests about the BC government’s contracts with the Conference Board of Canada to prop up its push for the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (see this previous post and also see here, here, here and here for additional background on the Conference Board’s “methodology”). In the latest batch of returns, Keith gets the responses from BC Ministries who were asked for input. The results are quite interesting (Keith’s memo follows):

Provincial Ministry Responses to Conference Board TILMA Survey

We found out last year that the Conference Board publication on TILMA was truly “quick and dirty” being done at the last minute and on the cheap.

We now have some other interesting information that shows the actual responses (or the lack of) that the Conference Board received to survey, which had a deadline of one week.

It appears that BC’s Ministry of Finance did not respond at all to questions about this agreement that is touted as having such large economic benefits for the province.  The Ministry of Forest and Range also did not respond.  Others agencies not responding included ICBC and the Ministry of Advanced Education.

In other words, as the following shows, two of the key economic ministries did not respond at all (Finance and Forests) while two others (Transportation and Mines) were extremely dubious about the project.

The Ministry of Transportation response included the following:

•    Trade is currently fairly open between the provinces and I’m not sure there would be significant gains from a further reduction in barriers.
•    However, coverage to every provincial measure might prove problematic.  There are many reasons for differences, some legitimate and some more political in nature.
•    From the perspective of transportation, there are certain legitimate reasons for differences, e.g. geography, climate and safety.

The Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Responds:

•    Unless otherwise addressed, some of the challenges described in the answers below appear to outweigh the anticipated specific regional and sectoral benefits.
•    Also, it appears the agreement does not recognize that the growth or management of the provincial economy is a legitimate objective.

The Ministry of Solicitor General said:

•    Laws which provide police with the necessary tools to combat economic crime, or organized crime, should not be viewed as barriers.  Neither should laws which provide for the necessary enforcement of vehicle and driver licensing standards.”

Ministry of Transportation

The Ministry’s respondent notes in her e-mail conveying these answers that, “Please note these are the opinions of the respondent and not an official Ministry position.

Questions

3. How do you think the province of British Columbia will be affected by the proposed agreement?

Trade is currently fairly open between the provinces and I’m not sure there would be significant gains from a further reduction in barriers.  Both provinces are currently doing quite well economically…

4. How would you rate the coverage/transparency clause in the proposed agreement?

I think it is good that exceptions must be explicitly stated.  However, coverage to every provincial measure might prove problematic.  There are many reasons for differences, some legitimate and some more political in nature.  Including all measures may create issues with certain stakeholders.  If economic gains are minimal, the conflict created with stakeholders may not be worth it.

5. How would you rate the impact of the standards and regulations clause in the proposed agreement?

From the perspective of transportation, there are certain legitimate reasons for differences, e.g. geography, climate and safety.  As well, there are different regulatory regimes in the two provinces, e.g. taxis in BC are regulated provincially while taxis in Alberta are regulated municipally.  Definitions, coverage, etc. differ between the two provinces.  It would not be a level playing field if licensing in one jurisdiction were automatically recognized in the other, unless the two licensing regimes were the same in every way.  The licensing of commercial passenger vehicles will have to be excluded.

With respect to regional differences, the author notes that in the Kootenay and the Northeast, “Local businesses may suffer losses to Alberta firms because of lower taxes paid in Alberta.”

Minister of State for Intergovernmental Relations

This office responds enthusiastically to every question.  It even assumes that the Northeast and the Kootenay will benefit as much from TILMA as regions that do not share a border with Alberta.

Ministry of Forest and Range

This Ministry, which deals with such an important part of BC’s economy, responds, “”A search of Ministry files did not locate any records responsive to your request.”  The Ministry did not complete the survey…”

Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum

3. How do you think the province of British Columbia will be affected by the proposed agreement?

Unless otherwise addressed, some of the challenges described in the answers below appear to outweigh the anticipated specific regional and sectoral benefits.

4. How would you rate the coverage/transparency clause in the proposed agreement?

Although the agreement may benefit non-professional skilled labour by allowing it to move between provinces, there does not appear to be consideration for the impact upon self-regulated professional groups registered in each province.

Also, it appears the agreement does not recognize that the growth or management of the provincial economy is a legitimate objective.  Finally, with regards to the lack of a local office or residency requirement in the investment measures, the agreement also may negatively impact upon the ability to initiate court actions against or collect judgment from a party which does not reside in or have assets in the province.

5. How would you rate the impact of the standards and regulations clause in the proposed agreement?

Consistent standards between the provinces, where appropriate, should benefit both of the provinces, industry and labour.  However, there may be situations where the differences in standards/regulations are required for different management approaches to address such things as the differences in terrain, hydrology, wildlife or forest resources which exist between the two provinces.

Ministry of Finance

The sole response from the Ministry of Finance is an e-mail that says, “FYI (Name of person).  Are you folks going to respond to this or should I get back to (Name of person).”

Ministry of Solicitor General

The Ministry of Solicitor General did not respond to the Conference Board questionnaire, however, they did say, “The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is supportive of efforts to improve the flow of people and commerce between jurisdictions through the elimination of unnecessary barriers to that flow.  Laws which provide police with the necessary tools to combat economic crime, or organized crime, should not be viewed as barriers.  Neither should laws which provide for the necessary enforcement of vehicle and driver licensing standards.”

Ministry of Agriculture

The Ministry of Agriculture’s response was enthusiastically supportive.

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