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CUPE BC calls for public hearings, MLA debate on TILMA in wake of damning reports

BURNABY – Two in-depth reports on the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between B.C. and Alberta build a compelling case that public hearings and a debate in the legislature must be held before the trade deal—reached behind closed doors last year—becomes law on April 1, says the B.C. division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The reports, by Ellen Gould, Marc Lee and Erin Weir, were released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Gould’s report finds several examples where democratic decision-making could be second-guessed or over-ruled by dispute panels empowered to favour commercial interests over government regulations. Lee and Weir’s report is a damning critique of the Conference Board of Canada’s methodology in endorsing TILMA.

“What these reports show is that TILMA is not a trade agreement,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill, “it’s a deregulation agenda disguised as a trade agreement. TILMA will allow corporations to veto measures taken by provinces and by local governments to protect their citizens. What this does is undermine the very legitimacy of governments—it’s fundamentally undemocratic.”

O’Neill singled out the CCPA’s critique of Articles 3 and 5.3 of the TILMA, which prohibit any measures that restrict investment, including “new standards or regulations.” The Gould report concludes that applying these articles to everything defined in TILMA as an investment means that municipal regulations restricting the “expansion of an enterprise” such as a chemical plant or ski resort, for example, would violate TILMA in principle.

“Such provisions are sweepingly broad statements that offer a powerful tool to corporations,” says O’Neill. “We think it’s appalling that this government would try to ram a trade agreement like this through the legislature without any debate.”

The CUPE BC president also renewed an earlier call for public hearings on TILMA.

“So far, the only people consulted on this have been the Alberta cabinet and selected business people,” he says. “There needs to be far more public consultation—as far as radical trade agreements go, this is right up there with the MAI.”