Concessions welcome, but TILMA agreement still constrains municipalities: CUPE BC
BURNABY—An agreement announced today between the Province of British Columbia and the Union of BC Municipalities responds to some concerns about a controversial B.C-Alberta trade deal but leaves many key issues unaddressed, says the B.C. division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
The Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), which comes into full effect on April 1, 2009, covers municipalities, academic institutions, school boards, and health and social service providers. Under the agreement with the UBCM, the procurement thresholds for all these areas has been raised to $200,000 from the original $100,000.
Also announced today was a consultation agreement on dispute resolution that will require the Province to consult with any B.C. local government and the UBCM if a local government measure is ever the subject of a dispute resolution challenge under the TILMA.
“The straightjacket has been loosened somewhat,” CUPE BC secretary-treasurer Mark Hancock said today, “but the TILMA is still unconstitutional, and it remains to be seen what other powers of municipalities are up for grabs or could be challenged.”
Hancock noted that corporations will still be able to sue governments for policies deemed to contravene the spirit of the TILMA; disputes will be arbitrated in a private court system; and governments are still subject to fines of up to $5 million.
“We’re glad to see that sustained pressure from public sector organizations and municipalities has forced the government to rethink the TILMA,” said Hancock.
“However, this doesn’t settle the issue. Local procurement policies by municipalities remain subject to challenge. Why should municipalities or school boards be forced into an agreement that limits their ability to make public policy that they feel is in the best interests of their communities?”
Hancock said that CUPE BC would continue to raise public awareness about the TILMA and discuss the union’s concerns with the provincial government, local governments, school boards, the BC School Trustees Association and the UBCM.
Earlier this year, constitutional expert Steven Shrybman released a legal opinion that found the TILMA and its supporting legislation in B.C. and Alberta unconstitutional. Hancock concluded that CUPE BC expects that this finding will not change in light of today’s announcement.
CONTACT: Mark Hancock, CUPE BC secretary-treasurer: 604.340.6787, Dan Gawthrop, CUPE Communications: 604.999.6132