11/02/2008

TILMA Expands on NAFTA

The Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) was signed by B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein in 2006. It has been hailed as an economic union that will be used as a model for the rest of Canada as the deal is open for other territories and provinces to join. The Yukon and Manitoba have declined to sign the agreement. Saskatchewan has also been reluctant to join because of perceived threats to its Crown Corporations and tax incentive programs. Recently, Premier Brad Wall has been discussing a deal with Alberta that would be similar to TILMA. Many provinces and states are also pursuing similar agreements. TILMA goes beyond other trade deals, with some describing it as more extreme and far-reaching than NAFTA. Much like the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and plans to create a North American Union, TILMA remains one of those best kept secrets.

Thousands of regulations are currently being reviewed in preparation for TILMA’s full implementation in April of 2009. Proponents say the agreement will breakdown current provincial trade barriers, harmonize standards and regulations, as well as grant professionals and those with trade skills easier labour mobility. The truth is that trade barriers between the provinces are already very low. TILMA will encompass provincial and local governments, regional districts, school boards, and health and social services. Ellen Gould said, “what TILMA does is force governments at both provincial and local levels to surrender vast areas of their ability to govern. The agreement is essentially a long list of things government will be prohibited from doing, regardless of whether they are acting completely within their jurisdiction.” The current economic climate is being used to push for further privatization and deregulation. TILMA is yet another attack on our sovereignty. Many municipalities continue to oppose the agreement because they understand that it will take power out of their hands. TILMA has been described as a race to the bottom in standards that will reduce labour rights and environmental protections.

Some feel that TILMA will not have much of an impact on provincial labour shortages, and there is a view that many of the so-called benefits have been greatly exaggerated. There are fears that shortages of some skilled professionals in Alberta could acutely worsen under the agreement. Alberta’s labour shortages have more to do with economic development and demographics. As a result of TILMA, some municipalities have been hesitant to draft policies favoring the purchase of locally grown foods and manufactured products out of fear that this could result in corporate and investment challenges. Many environmental, public health and safety regulations could be at risk. TILMA will also undercut unions and trade groups, lower standards right across the board, while at the same time severely undermining provincial and municipal autonomy.
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