Nova Scotia and TILMA

Public hearings proved to be an effective defence against TILMA in Saskatchewan. The following editorial from yesterday’s Halifax ChronicleHerald appropriately concludes, “Nova Scotia should hold public hearings, just like Saskatchewan, if it is toying with joining TILMA or a regional version thereof.”

Published: 2007-07-16

Talking trade

WHEN corporate Canada thinks of TILMA, it pictures a Chinook – a warm wind out of the West that will melt inter-provincial trade barriers and get more prosperity flowing.
. . .

Nova Scotia’s economic development minister, Richard Hurlburt, has spoken favourably about joining TILMA, but the province hasn’t decided yet how to play this card.

Erin Weir, an economist with the Canadian Labour Congress, says Nova Scotia should look before it leaps. The economic benefits of TILMA are overblown, he argues, while the problems it purports to solve – impediments caused by trade barriers – are overrated. Meanwhile, he says, the broad reach of the accord, uncertainty over how it might be interpreted by adjudicators, combined with “aggressive enforcement” mechanisms – companies can sue alleged violators for up to $5 million – make it a liability, more than an asset.

“Why take the risk, given how small these inter-provincial barriers actually are?” he told The Chronicle Herald editorial board last week.

In a position paper on the subject, Mr. Weir contends so-called trade barriers “are in fact differences across provinces in government procurement systems, labour standards, consumer-protection measures, environmental regulations and taxes.

“Harmonizing these policies down to the lowest common denominator would certainly reduce the cost of doing business. However, the alleged trade distortions resulting from these differences, and the supposed public benefits of removing them, have been greatly exaggerated. Genuine trade barriers are quite small and exist only in a few areas.”

Ultimately, Mr. Weir views TILMA as anti-democratic because it might constrain elected bodies from acting in the public interest. One thing’s for sure: TILMA was anti-democratic in its inception – neither the B.C. nor the Alberta legislatures debated the issue before ratifying it and municipalities weren’t even consulted.

Nova Scotia should hold public hearings, just like Saskatchewan, if it is toying with joining TILMA or a regional version thereof. Both sides of this interesting argument deserve to be heard – in full.

For the full editorial, click here.



One comment

  • TILMA has the potential to diminish the role of democratic institutions and the democratic process in Canada. Where is the open and transparent dialogue?
    Will TILMA lower trade certification requirements to the lowest standard?
    What is the end state of this agreement?

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