Local impacts of TILMA highlighted

A staff report to Vancouver city council has stated that a controversial trade deal between B.C. and Alberta could eventually have five potential impacts or implications for the municipal government.

The city’s manager of financial planning, Karen Levitt, suggested in the report that the British Columbia–Alberta Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement could contribute to a stronger local economy. However, she also suggested that TILMA could restrict council’s “local autonomy” and possibly lead to “increased administrative costs associated with complying” with the agreement.

TILMA took effect between the provinces on April 1 and will be extended to municipalities in 2009. Under the deal, governments cannot discriminate against companies or individuals on the basis of whether they are from Alberta or B.C.

Levitt stated in her report that this could rule out city incentives for local businesses. “If the City wished to provide a grant, loan, loan guarantee, goods or services, free land or any other form of financial assistance that was not available on the free market to a local business, this could be deemed in contravention of TILMA,” she wrote.

She added that preferential procurement policies and “extra?ordinary business licence conditions”—such as requirements to provide personal and private data from certain secondhand stores—could also contravene TILMA.

In addition, bylaws that require local building materials and zoning that prohibits an Alberta business could be deemed “restrictive”, she noted. Lower thresholds for the requirement to tender under TILMA “will be administratively inefficient for the City,” Levitt added.

Staff have recommended that the City participate with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities in the negotiations over the next two years relating to the impact of TILMA on local governments. Members of the public will have a chance to speak about this issue at a council committee meeting on June 14.

Last February, Burnaby city council voted unanimously to ask the B.C. government to exempt local governments from TILMA until after there has been “comprehensive and open consultation”.