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(Halifax) – A deal signed between the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick today could spell bad news for workers and public services, according to CUPE and the Council of Canadians. The Partnership on Regulation and Economy was announced today by New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham and Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald but leaves many questioning its real purpose.

Both organizations say if it’s anything like the TILMA agreement signed between Alberta and B.C. it could serve to lower standards rather than improving them.  TILMA stands for the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement and was signed in secret without any consultation by the premiers of British Columbia and Alberta in April, 2007. The Agreement will be fully implemented in April, 2009.

CUPE Nova Scotia President Danny Cavanagh says, “TILMA serves to remove local control from municipalities over decisions made at the community level and opens up regulations for legal challenges by private investors. When a business does not agree with a regulation democratically passed at the community level, it can levy a legal challenge and sue for up to five million dollars. This is why the Union of B.C. Municipalities rejected the province’s imposition of the Agreement in 2007. This should send a clear message to people in our two provinces that these deals are all about removing power from local governments and ordinary citizens.”

Angela Giles, Regional Organizer for the Council of Canadians, says, “”The question of ‘eliminating trade barriers’ has been a confusing one. Some trade experts say there are no trade barriers and point to increased inter-provincial trade which has been growing more quickly than our international trade. We need both provinces to really understand what barriers they are trying to get rid of, and question if the TILMA model is really the model to do this. Without an Agreement going through public consultations lots of these details, such as the dispute resolution process, don’t get discussed.”

CUPE New Brunswick President Daniel Legere says, “We want a commitment from both these premiers that this inter-provincial trade agreement will not undermine labour standards.  When they talk about ‘harmonizing’ employment standards, does that mean moving them up or down,” he asks.

Both organizations contend these deals are designed to let businesses veto legislation from democratically elected politicians. They suggest it’s time the issue was moved into the provincial legislatures where it belongs, so our elected representatives can have an open and democratic debate on it.