Labour Mobility: The Thin Edge of the Wedge?

A couple of hours ago, Industry Canada put out the following press release.  In forecasting this release last night, Canadian Press again repeated the Conference Board’s thoroughly discredited estimates of TILMA’s benefits.

As far as I know, the proposed April 2009 deadline for “full labour mobility” is the deadline toward which provincial governments were already working with the regulated professions under the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT). To some extent, the federal government seems to just be positioning itself to take credit for what would have been accomplished anyway.

The sinister part of the federal proposal is to incorporate TILMA’s dispute-resolution process, which grants private interests sweeping powers to challenge public policy, into the AIT. From what I have read so far, it is not entirely clear whether today’s proposal envisions TILMA-style enforcement for only the labour-mobility portion of the AIT or for the entire agreement. Either way, the federal government seems to be using the most popular piece of the “economic union” agenda – labour mobility – as a Trojan Horse to get TILMA’s dispute-settlement mechanism into the AIT.

Previously, the federal government had been calling on more provinces to join TILMA. Now it proposes to turn the AIT, to which all provinces are already committed, into something closer to TILMA. In this sense, today’s announcement should be viewed as an attempted end-run around the mounting opposition to TILMA.

UPDATE (June 8): It also strikes me that, had this announcement been entirely about “labour mobility”, HRSDC would presumably have made it. The announcement came from Industry because the substantive proposal is to insert TILMA’s enforcement mechanism into the AIT, which is Industry’s purview.

Canada’s New Government Commits to Full Labour Mobility

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland and Labrador, June 7, 2007 — The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Industry, proposed today that the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) be strengthened to ensure that Canadians enjoy the benefits of full labour mobility by April 1, 2009. The Minister made this proposal to his provincial and territorial counterparts at today’s meeting of the Committee on Internal Trade held in St. John’s.

“Canadians should be free to work and to have their occupational qualifications recognized across the country,” said Minister Bernier. “This should be a right of citizenship.”

This proposal is delivering on commitments made by the Government of Canada in its long-term economic plan Advantage Canada and in Budget 2007.

“Once again, our government is moving forward to get things done for Canadians. We want to take action to foster a stronger economic union by working with provinces and territories to eliminate barriers to labour mobility within Canada,” said Minister Bernier. “With leadership, political will and flexibility, we can eliminate barriers to the movement of persons, goods, services and investments within Canada.”

Minister Bernier led the discussion on labour mobility and proposed that the AIT be amended to include mutual recognition of occupational qualifications by default and that a more effective dispute resolution mechanism be incorporated into the AIT. These provisions would be similar to those in the Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) signed by British Columbia and Alberta in April 2006. TILMA provides for mutual recognition by default if parties cannot reconcile measures. It also has a strong dispute resolution process, with monetary penalties for non-compliance.

“Under TILMA, B.C. and Alberta have recognized that full labour mobility means workers enjoy the recognition of their credentials across provincial and territorial borders,” said Colin Hansen, B.C.’s Minister of Economic Development. “It is encouraging to see the Government of Canada commit to full cooperation in order to make this vision a reality for all workers.”

“Alberta and B.C. both believe that full labour mobility would benefit all provinces in Canada,” said Guy Boutilier, Alberta’s Minister of International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations. “In our joint cabinet meetings, Premiers Stelmach and Campbell worked to remove barriers to labour mobility, and the TILMA is a model for Canada. The Atlantic Premiers’ recent visit to Alberta shows how important interprovincial trade and labour mobility are. Addressing these issues nationally will improve our economic efficiency and make our country even more competitive.”

Provinces and territories agreed to look at the Minister of Industry’s proposal and recommend that the Chair of the Committee on Internal Trade consult with the Forum of Labour Market Ministers on the matter.

The establishment of the AIT in 1995 was a first step in removing existing barriers, preventing new ones and harmonizing interprovincial standards. A dozen years later, hurdles to interprovincial labour mobility and commerce still exist.

For more information, please contact:

Isabelle Fontaine
Office of the Honourable Maxime Bernier
Minister of Industry

Media Relations
Industry Canada

One comment

  • How will the new legislation affect a registered psychologist moving from Alberta to BC?
    (Currently registration is not ‘mobile’).

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