Alberta Municipalities on TILMA

It is good to see that the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association is paying attention to this issue:

AUMA Wants Full Consultation on new Alberta-BC Trade Agreement

Watch for upcoming public consultations on the recently signed Alberta-British Columbia Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA).

The Agreement, signed in 2006, is Canada’s most comprehensive international trade Agreement – and it will affect municipalities in many ways.

The aim of TILMA is to break down barriers between Alberta and British Columbia, to create a market of 7.5 million people and Canada’s second largest economy.

The AUMA requested last year that municipalities be consulted on any initiative to implement TILMA and to change provisions that would affect municipalities.

The government has since stated that it will hold public consultations this spring to identify the issues and understand the position of municipalities on the various provisions. The Agreement contains provisions that deal with such municipal matters as open access to procurement and to employment opportunities.

The first phase of a two-year transition to TILMA is to begin on April 1, 2007. Full implementation will occur on April 1, 2009. The provisions that affect the municipal sector will not apply until then.

The largest impact on the municipal sector is expected to be from the Agreement’s procurement provisions. These provisions prohibit “local favoritism” in hiring beyond certain monetary thresholds. They also apply to procuring goods, services and investors or investments.

If the Agreement’s labour mobility provisions are extended to the municipal level, without changes, municipalities would not be able to maintain local hiring preferences. Municipalities could not, for example, require a worker to be a resident in its territory as a condition of access to employment opportunities.

TILMA could also affect licensing, certification or registrations requirements, with competency the key requirement. Municipalities could be required to reconcile differences in standards. This provision, for example, could affect a municipal utility that currently does not recognize the qualifications of trades people trained in another province, even though the qualifications are equivalent to those required locally and are recognized as equivalent by the appropriate regulatory authority.

The Council of Canadians is currently conducting a campaign against TILMA, suggesting that the Agreement “undermines local democracy.”

The AUMA has not yet made a submission to the Province on this issue, but is in regular contact with the Province. All aspects of the Agreement are being reviewed, with plans to submit comments on TILMA in the next couple of months. Stay tuned.

Thank you.

John McGowan

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