Regulatory “cooperation” in action
In our paper, Putting Canadians at Risk, Bruce Campbell and I feared that lowering our regulatory standards would inevitably happen under the banner of “regulatory cooperation” with the US, something senior government officials think is just great. While this might look like typical Harper policy, it is really just a continuation of an initiative that gained steam under the Martin government.
Deregulation is at the top of the policy agenda for big business, and we are seeing it manifested at the provincial level through the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), at the national level through the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and at the international level through the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). As with TILMA, the benefits of regulatory “cooperation” (code for harmonization) with the US have been heavily exaggerated. As with TILMA, there are scent few examples of economic harms caused by differences in regulation. And as with TILMA, the public wants tougher regulations but the government is delivering weaker ones under Orwellian names like “smart regulation” and “regulatory cooperation”.
So, to avoid a “trade irritant” we will now lower our regulatory limits to those of the US for pesticide residues. Would the US ever change its regulatory policies to avoid a “trade irritant” with Canada? The asymmetrical power relationship means we lower our standards, although there is nothing that says we need to do so. If anything we should be adopting a more precautionary approach, better funding our regulatory agencies, and cooperating with regimes like the EU that do indeed have higher regulatory standards.