B.C. and Alberta’s Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) is a secretly negotiated, inter-provincial trade agreement that undermines democracy in both provinces, and threatens to expand across Canada. CUPE has been working with other anti-TILMA groups to push back against this destructive agreement and pressure the provincial government to abandon it or at least allow politicians to actually debate it in the legislature.
“The TILMA was designed to eliminate some mythical trade barriers between our provinces, but the agreement’s supporters cannot even come up with a list of what those barriers are,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill. “Inter-provincial trade barriers in Canada were estimated at one-twentieth of one per cent of our economy over 20 years ago, and even the right wing think tank, the C.D. Howe Institute, reports that they have fallen ever since.”
The TILMA is also supposed to remove differences in regulations that block labour mobility between the provinces, but this creates a race to the bottom as both B.C. and Alberta must recognize each other’s standards, even if they are lower. On December 17, the BC College of Teachers announced that it has become TILMA-compliant by reconciling its teacher educations standards-currently requiring five years of post-secondary training for teachers-with Alberta’s standards: only four years of training. The College of Teachers claims that “parents in both provinces can be assured that their children will continue to be taught by some of the most talented and dedicated teachers in the world.” The problem, of course, is that B.C.’s high teacher education standards are no longer required.
The TILMA is mostly a corporate bill of rights. It allows “investors”-businesses, corporations or individuals-to sue the provincial government if any law, bylaw or regulation from the provincial government, or any municipality, school board, health authority, crown corporation or government body limits a business’s ability to make money, except for laws in a very few legitimate areas. This essentially allows businesses to veto laws that they don’t like.
The TILMA is designed to let businesses veto legislation from democratically elected politicians. So it is not surprising that governments do not want the agreement itself debated. In British Columbia, many groups and individuals have been pushing back against this erosion of democracy, and after several major anti-TILMA events this past year, CUPE and our allies successfully forced the government not to pass or even debate its TILMA-enabling legislation.
When it comes to putting together a list of resolutions for the new year, make sure to take a stand to protect communities and public services. Join CUPE and the Council of Canadians in demanding that British Columbia have a full and open debate on TILMA . And write your own provincial government, and tell them that TILMA - or its Eastern cousin, Atlantica - are no model for Canada.