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Taking the SPs to Task on TILMA

As Joe Kuchta points out, Saskatoon’s StarPhoenix (SP) newspaper has essentially reversed its position on TILMA without any acknowledgement that its previous position was mistaken. The other SP, the province’s governing Saskatchewan Party, did the same thing. At least the StarPhoenix printed the following op-ed from Joe:

SP’s TILMA stance hypocritical

Joe Kuchta

Special to The StarPhoenix

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The following is the viewpoint of the writer, a resident of Saskatoon.

For The StarPhoenix editorial board, it’s as if time stopped on June 28, 2007. That’s when Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall announced that, due to a few concerns, a government under him would not sign on to the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, which was struck between the Alberta-British Columbia governments, in its present form.

Anything Wall or The SP might have said about TILMA before then seems no longer to exist. In its editorial, TILMA analysis wise approach by Sask. cities (March 17) The SP completely ignores the fact that Wall’s support for the trade deal was absolute and unequivocal throughout 2006. Wall repeatedly condemned NDP premier Lorne Calvert for not signing it.

B.C. and Alberta signed the trade deal behind closed doors without public consultation or legislative debate. Wall wanted Saskatchewan at the table and, had he been premier, there’s little doubt he would have committed the province to TILMA.

Long forgotten also is The SP’s endorsement of the trade deal without reservation. In the editorial, TILMA gives clout to Sask. (May 15, 2007), The SP said the province would have “the most to lose” if it were left out and urged Calvert “to push for Saskatchewan’s inclusion as soon as possible.”

The editorial said: “TILMA’s success is based on the notion of including everything unless there’s a darn good reason to leave out a sector.”

Only now, after the conservative think tank, the Estey Centre for Law and Economics in International Trade, releases a report that raises a number of serious concerns with the agreement, including The SP’s aforementioned “success,” does the editorial board reconsider its position.

When citizens, labour groups and respected individuals such as economists Erin Weir and Marc Lee or international trade lawyer Steven Shrybman and trade consultant Ellen Gould were raising the very same concerns more than a year ago, The SP dismissed them as “scaremongers” and “the usual anti-trade and protectionist suspects.” The SP’s hypocrisy is incredible.

The StarPhoenix suggests the B.C. and Alberta municipalities that are disgruntled with the trade deal should have raised their concerns at the outset, instead of after the fact. How could they, when their respective governments neglected to consult with them? Proof of this fact can be found in the excellent report on TILMA that Saskatoon city solicitor Theresa Dust submitted to city council in February 2007.

It appears The SP now supports a total exemption for municipalities from TILMA, along with having the well-established court system to resolve disputes rather than rely on some newly created trade panel to do the job. That’s great, but the scope of the Estey centre report is confined primarily to TILMA’s impact on municipalities. The impact, however, goes well beyond that.

For example, eventually left unprotected and exposed to the full force of the agreement under Article 17 of TILMA will be such things as: water; measures that relate to aboriginal peoples; regulated rates established for the public good or interest; social policy that includes labour standards and codes, minimum wages, Employment Insurance, social assistance benefits and worker’s compensation; financial assistance for recreation, academic research or non-profit organizations; measures adopted or maintained to provide compensation to persons for losses resulting from calamities such as diseases or disasters; measures adopted or maintained relating to the management or conservation of forests, fish and wildlife; or to the management and disposal of hazardous and waste materials.

How on earth can this be good for Saskatchewan?

Presumably Premier Wall and the Saskatchewan Party still support this nasty business, because it’s not on their list of concerns with the agreement.

Business lobby groups such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Council of Chief Executives enthusiastically support TILMA and its regime of harmonization and deregulation. To them, the interests of private investors and profiteers outweigh any negative impact the trade deal might have on municipalities or the public in general. The Wall government is cut from the same cloth.

TILMA was a bad deal in April 2006 and it’s still a bad deal today.

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