Randy Burton on TILMA

Hopefully, the radio interview that I just did with Saskatoon’s News Talk 650 will help to counteract Randy Burton’s column in today’s StarPhoenix. Burton claims:

There is one overarching reason why we should be cautious about accepting the predictions of doom that await Saskatchewan if it joins a trade agreement with Alberta and B.C.

The people who tell us less restrictive trade with other provinces will kill democracy in Saskatchewan are the same people who told us free trade with the U.S. would mean the end of Canada as we know it.

The Council of Canadians, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and various labour groups were unanimous then and they’re just as convinced now.

. . .

The Conference Board of Canada has concluded that TILMA would increase Saskatchewan’s GDP by $291 million, and increase annual employment by 4,400 person years. In other words, signing the agreement could cause economic growth that exceeds our average annual increase in employment.

University of Saskatchewan economist Eric Howe was contracted by the government to examine this study and he concluded the Conference Board might be underestimating the benefit.

Nor should we believe that we can avoid the process of reducing trade barriers, he argues.

There are at least three serious problems with Burton’s column:

First, rather than addressing the arguments against TILMA, he simply pooh-poohs the people making them. In fact, the experience of NAFTA’s dispute-settlement process reinforces the concerns now being raised about TILMA’s similar dispute-settlement process.

Second, Burton provides no examples of inter-provincial “trade barriers” that should be reduced.

Third, he touts Eric Howe’s perspective without mentioning that John Helliwell also reviewed the Conference Board’s study for the provincial government and came to the opposite conclusion. (My take on the Conference Board, Howe and Helliwell is now available on the CLC’s website.)

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