VANCOUVER—Yesterday’s overwhelming rejection of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) by delegates to the Union of B.C.
Municipalities convention is a major setback for the BC Liberal government and has damaged the premier’s credibility on trade issues, CUPE BC said today.
The A3 TILMA resolution mandates the UBCM to review the agreement between British Columbia and Alberta, “and enter into discussions with the provincial government and local governments, with the intent of either making changes to the agreement to more specifically address local government concerns, exempt local governments from the agreement, or request that the Province withdraw from the agreement altogether.”
During the debate an amendment was put forward to remove the option of withdrawal from the TILMA, but the motion was defeated. In the end, all but four delegates voted in favour of the resolution.
“This result should send a clear message to Premier Campbell, and to Colin Hansen, that local governments have done their due diligence on the TILMA, and they don’t like what they see,” said CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.
“Before the vote was passed, several councillors expressed concerns about the TILMA’s potential to remove power from local governments and give protection to investors priority over public policy. These are not trivial concerns.”
Specific issues of concern included thresholds for purchasing, restrictions on the ability of local governments to give out subsidies and grants, potential obstructions to local initiatives to protect the environment and the lack of precedent around dispute panel decisions.
O’Neill echoed BC NDP leader Carol James’s observation that Hansen, the Minister of Economic Development, typically dismisses the concerns of municipalities by continuing to insist that they are misinterpreting the TILMA.
“Mr. Hansen should drop this patronizing attitude and take a more serious look at local concerns,” said O’Neill.
James, in her address to delegates today, congratulated municipal politicians for their persistence in trying to get answers on the TILMA’s true implications. She said that the provincial government owes municipalities a straightforward explanation of the trade agreement’s reach.
“Accountability is not a four-letter word, Mr. Campbell,” she said. “The province must put the TILMA into the legislature for proper, democratic debate.”