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Trade law expert cites Liberal government’s Bill 32 with constitutional violations

VICTORIA — The Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between British Columbia and Alberta—and the B.C. legislation enabling it—violate the Canadian constitution by usurping the role of judges and endowing cabinet with too much power, says a leading trade law expert in a legal opinion released today.

In the written opinion, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell lawyer Steven Shrybman says that the TILMA and the BC Liberal government’s Bill 32 “confront basic constitutional norms, including the rule of law and democracy”, by trumping the authority of both judges and parliaments.

By imposing financial penalties and other sanctions on the province for the lawful actions of governments and other public bodies, TILMA and Bill 32 improperly fetter the exercise of legislative and public authority,” Shrybman says, in the May 7 document.

They also usurp the role of senior courts “by empowering ad hoc tribunals to adjudicate private claims concerning the actions of government and other public bodies.” TILMA and Bill 32 also  offend constitutional limits on the delegation of legislative power to the executive branch of government “by amending certain provincial statutes to accord Cabinet the discretionary power to nullify, through regulation, the application of provisions of those laws to companies and other entities from outside the province.”

The legal opinion was commissioned by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill, attending a press conference today in his capacity as CUPE National general vice president representing B.C. and Alberta, calls Shrybman’s report “the most damning indictment yet” of the controversial TILMA deal, which was reached in secret between the Campbell Liberals and Alberta’s Ralph Klein government.

Bill 32’s amendment granting the Cabinet discretionary powers to overrule laws affecting companies from outside B.C. is one of the more arrogant manipulations of legislation we have seen from this government,” says O’Neill.

This is power by proclamation, which the courts have referred to as ‘King Henry the Eighth clauses’. Does Mr. Campbell wish to be compared to such a monarch?”

Contact:  Steven Shrybman, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP: 613.482.2456,
Barry O’Neill, CUPE BC president: 604.340.6768,  
Dan Gawthrop, CUPE Communications: 604.999.6132