TILMA Versus Canadian Football

The Canadian Football League’s season does not begin until June, but debate is already underway about TILMA’s potential effect on its franchises, most of which are for-profit businesses that receive government subsidies.

The last federal budget proposed a new Canadian Heritage Sport Fund to promote three-down football, but also proposed to expand TILMA to more provinces.

In response to my post on Wednesday about TILMA and Saskatchewan, Marc identified a statement by John Helliwell about the agreement’s potential impact on professional football teams. Larry Hubich raised this issue with respect to the Saskatchewan Roughriders through his blog on Thursday. Confirming the strength of football culture in my home province, Regina‘s Leader-Post ran the following story on Friday.

Free-trade agreement’s impact on ‘Riders is debatable

Matthew Barton


Friday, April 27, 2007

The end is nigh for the Saskatchewan Roughriders if a free-trade agreement is signed by the province, according to labour representatives.

A blog titled “Sign TILMA – Kiss the Riders good-bye” was posted Friday by Larry Hubich, the president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL).

Hubich said the CFL franchise could face impending doom under the Trade Investment Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) because of a clause preventing the subsidization of for-profit businesses by government.

Hubich’s blog cited a passage from UBC professor Dr. John Helliwell’s review of the Conference Board of Canada’s Report titled Assessing the Impact of Saskatchewan Joining the BC-Alberta Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement.

“A professional football franchise in one province could launch an objection, subject to binding panel arbitration, against the government of a city in another province if they were to provide government subsidized infrastructure for the local team,” wrote Helliwell.

In short, Helliwell said a football team could file a complaint under TILMA against a provincial government for subsidizing a team. Rewards for successful complaints can be as much as $5 million.

“It would put a chill on public and community investment in the Riders,” said Hubich.

But there was one small problem.

“I’m not sure if TILMA would apply (to the Roughriders). The provisions do not affect not-for-profit enterprises,” according to TILMA architect Shawn Robbins, the director of internal trade under the ministry of international and intergovernmental relations of the government of Alberta.

The Roughriders are classified as a non-profit corporation, according to Deb McEwen, the director of communications for Sask Justice.

The Roughriders will declare at their annual general meeting today that they are in the black by $455 for the current fiscal year. For-profit companies are not eligible for government subsidies under TILMA.

“Subsidies are seen as inconsistent with TILMA. The provisions are seen as levelling the playing field for businesses between provinces,” said Robbins.

The last time the Roughriders won a Grey Cup was in 1989. The B.C. Lions and Edmonton Eskimos have secured two cups each and Calgary one cup since 2000.

“Saskatchewan doesn’t need to sign onto this agreement. We support trade, we support investment, we support labour mobility. A democratic society doesn’t exist with the framework of a trade agreement,” said Hubich.

For the full article, click here.

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