Saskatchewan gives TILMA cold blast

If Saskatchewan has given a thumbs-down to the controversial Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement , so should B.C.

This is the view of Caelie Frampton , local organizer with the Stop TILMA B.C. coalition . The group is opposed to the B.C.–Alberta agreement that came into effect April 1 with the aim of streamlining a number of regulations across the two provinces.

On August 1, Saskatchewan's government relations minister, Harry Van Mulligen , stated in a news release: "After careful study the government has concluded that [TILMA] is not for Saskatchewan."

"It's really exciting news," Frampton said. "The announcement from Saskatchewan should make [B.C. economic development minister Colin] Hansen rethink TILMA. The [Saskatchewan] decision comes out of a consultation process where the government of that province heard from experts on both sides. Their conclusions were that this agreement would be a bad deal for that province, and I think the same argument can be made for B.C."

At the July 27 Greater Vancouver Regional District board meeting, several municipal politicians grilled Hansen over the effects TILMA would have on municipalities. Hansen did not make himself available for an interview with the Straight .

However, on April 24, Hansen told the Straight : "There is nothing in TILMA that affects the ability of municipalities to pass bylaws."

At the time, Hansen said the only exception would be if municipalities "put in place procedures or bylaws at a municipal level–in two years when municipalities become subject to it [in 2009]–that discriminate against a company or an individual, based on which province that company or individual is from".

North Vancouver City councillor Craig Keating told the Straight he attended the GVRD board meeting, and in principle agrees with free-trade agreements. "The problem with this one is the way in which municipal regulations can be opened up to being viewed as impediments to trade and investment," he said. "That's not about free trade and that's not a specific trade measure, but it is a race to the bottom, and that I can't live with."

On the Saskatchewan decision Keating added, "I don't think it is going to stop TILMA dead in its tracks."

Frampton said the issue will come up again next month, when the annual convention of the Union of BC Municipalities takes place in Vancouver from September 24 to 28. "Ideally this would be in response to citizens' concerns, as there was no debate in the legislature," she said. "A trade agreement shouldn't be something signed in secret."