On the eve of the first-ever joint cabinet meeting between the Ontario and Quebec provincial governments, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) urges leaders to consider the potential consequences of risks being taken by their western counterparts with inter-provincial trade agreements before pursuing any similarly dangerous path of their own.
Billed as an opportunity to review several proposed agreements between the two provinces to advance economic partnerships, CUPE is concerned that the joint cabinet meeting will result in a decision to pursue a version of TILMA – the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement.
CUPE urges the two cabinets to pay close attention to the legal analyses released on May 21st concerning BC’s Bill 32 and on May 26th concerning Alberta’s Bill 1, both related to the implementation of TILMA between those two provinces.
“One of Canada’s top legal minds on trade and public interest – Steven Shrybman – has concluded that agreements like TILMA pose a direct threat to such core Canadian values as cooperation and democracy,“ says Paul Moist, CUPE national president, “He even called them unconstitutional.”
Premiers McGuinty and Charest and their cabinets enter this historic meeting armed with more than enough proof that an agreement like TILMA would be the wrong direction for Ontarians and Quebecers. Existing trade and labour agreements, however, are the best mechanisms by which they might explore an enhanced economic relationship.
CUPE encourages Ontario and Quebec to demonstrate courage in the face of pressure to bypass the regulations that some believe hinder Canadian businesses, especially amidst fear that new trade arrangements could bring about the same litigation and corporate control problems associated with NAFTA.
If the autonomy of local and provincial governments matter to them, McGuinty and Charest will reject a radical option like TILMA: “Amending existing labour mobility agreements so they work better for Canadians is the only option that favours communities, public services, and democracy,” says Moist.
Premier McGuinty has already said he won’t sign any inter-provincial trade agreement that would undermine labour standards.
“We can only assume, then, that a deal like TILMA won’t even hit the table, as one of its key elements is to imbue unelected dispute boards with the power to override legislation deemed to restrict ‘business’, including environmental and labour standards,” says Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario President.
Adds Lucie Levasseur, President of CUPE Quebec, “Given how little talk there has been of TILMA in Quebec so far, the Charest government would be wise to not open that can of worms.”
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.
For information or interviews: Pam Kapoor, CUPE National Communications, 613.853.8089