Postby Oscar » Sun Jul 08, 2007 5:48 pm


For immediate release: June 11, 2007


"The Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), is not good for Saskatchewan"says Murray Hidlebaugh, Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society.

Although the TILMA was developed by the provincial governments of British Columbia and Alberta, there has been a push to have Saskatchewan sign on. The TILMA is being promoted as a way to decrease the 'inter-provincial trade barriers that exist', arguing that the corporate sector is being held back by government rules and regulations that proponents claim unduly increase the cost of doing business.

However, the conditions identified as barriers are, in most cases, provincial or local government regulations related to health, safety, and environmental protection. Furthermore, third-party analysts are saying that there are no significant trade barriers - Saskatchewan is currently the third most internationally export oriented province in Canada; and the second most 'open' province to internal trade in Canada, according to StatsCan.

"Our organization has some major concerns with the Agreement,"says Murray Hidlebaugh of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society. "We have reviewed the agreement, in consultation with lawyers specializing in international trade and investment, and it appears that the TILMA has serious negative ramifications related to local and provincial governments' ability to manage environmental issues related to water, energy, land-use development and pesticides."

"Perhaps even more concerning," adds Hidlebaugh, "is how the TILMA may impact local communities in their own decision making: the agreement is designed to virtually eliminate the ability of local government to exercise control over economic or public service decisions in the community if such control is deemed to economically harm a corporation."

Under TILMA, any corporation would be able to lawfully challenge a local government's position on any social policy it may have implemented for the community's benefit. Cooperative ventures, special assistance by Crown Corporations for rural and isolated areas, and Crown support for local business purchases would be in jeopardy.

An independent technology research company found that Saskatchewan's broad band telecommunication system developed by SaskTel, with its 'government-as-anchor-tenant' approach, was more cost-effective than the private sector could be. Moreover it gave economic development within the rural economy a distinct advantage compared to rural areas in other provinces. This would be lost under the agreement.

"It is hard to think of a government regulation or program that could not fall foul of the TILMA's prohibition on obstacles to investment," says Hidlebaugh, "The TILMA only permits regional economic development initiatives under 'exceptional circumstances'. So, for instance, the commercial loans Saskatchewan grants to northern business under the Northern Development Fund would be TILMA violations. Again this would have a huge negative impact on communities trying to improve the quality of life for their citizens.

The TILMA also requires the harmonization of provincial environmental regulations with the result that, municipalities that want to control the use of pesticides or to implement other types of restrictions on hazardous substances could be sued by companies producing those substances, as creating an unfair trade barrier.

Another major concern with the agreement that isn't adequately addressed is source water protection. Because investor profits would be negatively impacted in the oil and gas sector if there are any governmental controls on the use of water in the extraction process, the results will be to treat water as a commodity as opposed to a right. Governments will be sued if they try to restrict or otherwise treat the oil industry any differently from the local citizens in terms of access to water. Also, the TILMA opens the door even more for bulk water export to other parts of North America.

"Based on the research, it is unlikely that there are any benefits in the TILMA for Saskatchewan," say Hidlebaugh, "Instead, there appear to be significant costs to signing the agreement. This agreement really has more to do with creating a situation where the corporate sector has more control over the citizens of the province than do the elected local governments."

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Saskatchewan Environmental Society:
(306)665-1915 (office)

Saskatchewan Environmental Society
203 115 2nd Avenue North
Box 1372
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phone: (306) 665-1915
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