(Edmonton) Top trade and public interest lawyer, Steven Shrybman, has deemed Alberta’s Bill 1 to be unconstitutional. The Bill – concerning the Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Act (TILMA), an inter-provincial agreement between Alberta and British Columbia – is slated for third reading this week.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) commissioned Shrybman - a lawyer with Sack, Goldblatt, and Mitchell – to analyze the Bill. In the opinion released this morning, Shrybman warns that by imposing financial and other sanctions on the otherwise lawful acts of public bodies, Bill 1 contravenes basic constitutional norms, including the rule of law and democracy.
The opinion raises concerns about such elements in the Bill as a clause requiring governing public bodies to compensate business if they pass a law that “restricts” profitability.
“That clause alone is a threat to the autonomy of Albertan decision-makers,” says D’Arcy Lanovaz, CUPE Alberta Division president and National Executive Board Member.
“Environmental regulations could be deemed to restrict business. Rules banning junk food in schools restrict business. Minimum wage laws restrict business. Almost any law, regulation, or action that a government might come up with could be spun as restricting business.”
Under TILMA, labour standards are vulnerable to challenge, as is how much training a local authority may determine an employee needs to perform duties. In cases where governments have different safety standards, the lowest common denominator would become the rule of the day.
“TILMA as we know it in Alberta and BC should sound the alarm in other regions of Canada, like Ontario and Quebec, that are currently considering similar inter-provincial agreements,” says CUPE National President, Paul Moist, “Do we want the ability to make our own laws restricted by trade agreement dispute boards bestowed with governance-type powers?”
CUPE monitors proposed deals like TILMA out of concern that more corporate control of communities and workers poses a direct threat to public services and democracy.
Today’s opinion on Bill 1 follows last week’s release of the Shrybman/CUPE opinion on BC’s Bill 32 regarding the same agreement.