Municipalities send a strong message that they reject TILMA!

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Sep 26, 2007, 5:55:51 PM9/26/07

Municipalities voted this morning at the Union of British Columbia
Municipalities to support the resolution from Creston, which questions
the Trade, Investment an Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) and its
impacts on municipalities. This rejection of the agreement comes after
several attempts by the Minister Colin Hansen to satisfy concerns of
councilors. The resolution (A3) was originally pending endorsement
prior to the pre-convention workshop with the Minister on Monday but
today the UBCM resolutions committee submitted their endorsement.

The resolution A3 asks for "the Union of BC Municipalities review the
Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility 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". This near
unanimous vote is a significant rejection of TILMA by municipalities
in BC.

During the discussion on the resolution, an amendment was put forward
to remove the section "that the Province withdraw from the agreement
altogether". Twelve councilors spoke to the amendment, with nine speak
in opposition to making any changes. The amendment failed and as one
councilor from Hazelton explained, "we need all options available".

Eight councilors spoke to the motion with 5 in favour and 6 spoke
following vote on the UBCM policy paper which came up immediately
following the Creston resolution.

Several councilors explained that TILMA threatens to remove power from
local governments and that the Agreement gives protection to investors
over public policy. A representative from Island Trust said that the
Agreement "threatens measures to protect BC Island Communities" and
that they have requested to be excluded.

In response to the dispute resolution process that is part of the
Agreement, another councilor asked for local government representation
on the trade panel stating that the five hand picked panelists, "don't
live in our communities".

I have included a copy of the press release from the Council of
Canadians as well as a summary of pre-conference TILMA session with
Colin Hansen that was distributed at the UBCM to councilors who missed
the session.

Congratulations to all who have been working with their elected
representatives on TILMA!



A3 Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA)- Creston

Whereas the provincial governments of British Columbia and Alberta
have entered into a Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement
(TILMA), which came into effect on April 1, 2007 and which is intended
to liberalize trade, investment and labour mobility beyond the level
provided by the Agreement on Internal Trade that was brought into
effect for British Columbia on March 31, 2002;

AND WHEREAS TILMA has the potential to have far reaching negative
impacts on local government objectives:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of BC Municipalities review
the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility 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.


This document is also available in pdf format here:

Highlights from UBCM pre-conference TILMA Session: Monday Sept 24

On Monday September 24, 2007 the UBCM hosted a TILMA pre-conference
session to address the UBCM member's concerns with TILMA. The Minister
for Economic Development Colin Hansen and three bureaucrats
responsible for TILMA presented the case for the province's backing of
TILMA. Lawyer Don Lidstone was present to represent the UBCM's
concerns with TILMA. Approximately 200 delegates attended this
information session which resulted in a lively discussion about TILMA
and ultimately in the question coming from several attendees "Why not
exempt us [municipalities]?"

The Council of Canadians is encouraged by the strong criticisms of the
Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement raised yesterday by
municipal representatives at the annual convention of the Union of
British Columbia Municipalities in Vancouver.

Issues of concern raised by local governments were supported by UBCM
lawyer Don Lidstone and included thresholds for purchasing,
restrictions on the ability of local governments to give out subsidies
and grants, and potential obstructions to local initiatives to protect
the environment. Councilors also raised concerns about the vague and
undefined nature of TILMA, the lack of precedent around dispute panel
decisions, and mixed messages from the government about the Agreement.

The Minister's responses did not leave councilors feeling confident
about the Agreement's impacts on municipalities. On several occasions
answers from the Minister directly conflicted with Lidstone's, and as
one councilor put it, "I don't know who to believe, a politician or a
lawyer!" The conflicting messages about the potential effect the
Agreement could have on municipalities sent a strong message to
participants that only a permanent exemption from the Agreement can
protect local governments.

"What is the need for this Agreement?"
- BC Councilor at UBCM TILMA Session

Conflicting Messages on TILMA's Impact on Municipalities
Hansen repeatedly stated in the session that the Ministry has yet to
identify a provision from local governments that will be in
contravention to the Agreement. He also claimed that the impact of
TILMA on municipalities will not be great.

However, as one councilor pointed out the changes to the threshold
levels alone under TILMA are "unworkable". As one councilor stated the
$10,000 threshold for procurement "will break us" in terms of the
extra work it will create for municipal staff. Instead of talking
about thresholds as an option for negotiation with the UBCM, Hansen
responded that these levels benefit tax payers and that this is the
best value for them. He also encouraged municipalities to make good
use of software made available to them, to expedite the tendering

Several councilors outlined the importance for their communities in
passing resolutions that prioritized their ability to make decisions
that directly benefit their communities. These included decisions that
reflect public policy and ethical decisions before the bottom line.
Questions from councils also highlighted the focus for local
governments on sustainable and ecologically friends municipal
decisions in light of climate change. Lidstone confirmed that local
resolutions/decisions such as Vancouver's ethical purchasing policy
these would "run afoul of TILMA". Lidstone also raised concerns for
the 37 local governments in BC that promote buying locally.

Vagueness of the Agreement, Lack of Precedent
One councilor asked about precedent and the intent of TILMA in knowing
that "precedent is what its all about" when it comes to court
decisions- including under the private court system that is set up
under TILMA. Another asked if the Minister was willing to amend the
language in the Agreement to clarify the recognition of need for "even
handedness" versus the implications of 'mutual recognition' in
reference to preserving local choice.

Hansen claims that the provincial government can issue interpretations
on the Agreement at any point and time. However, in terms of making
special provisions he stated that "as the province we are going to
push back a little to make sure this [the Agreement] falls in the
right place".

Dispute Panel Process
Lidstone reminded people in the room that municipalities do not get to
defend their own measures should they be challenged by an investor at
the dispute resolution panel. He also stated that there may be
"pressure put on you to change your measure" and that the government
"could over rule your measure".

Hansen attempted to reassure attendees about the dispute panel process
by reminding municipal leaders that he had "hand selected" the 5
panelists for the dispute resolution panel, who are appointed for
indeterminate terms. This did not leave the room feeling reassured
about that process nor its openness. The idea that Hansen hand
selected people who would be charged with interpreting the vague
language of the Agreement did not sit well with for municipal leaders.

When asked to clarify what party would be responsible for monetary
fines should the dispute panel rule in favour of the investor, Hansen
reiterated that the province was responsible for the fine. However,
Lidstone also stated that the government has yet to ensure local
governments that the province will not then go after local governments
for any compensation the province is forced to pay, which prompted
much rumbling in the room. Lidstone repeatedly stated in the session
that while the government had not stated that it would go after local
governments for repayment, "the government has yet to state that it
will not"

Next Steps
The TILMA resolution from Creston (A3) comes up for discussion as the
third resolution on Wednesday, Sept 26 at 9:20am. Be sure to be on
the floor in order to voice your opinion and vote on this important


For Immediate Release September 26, 2007

Council of Canadians applauds UBCM rejection of TILMA

Vancouver -The Council of Canadians applauds the Union of British
Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) for taking a strong stand against the
Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) in a landmark
vote this morning. Municipal representatives passed a motion to either
drastically alter TILMA to address the concerns of local governments,
to be exempted from TILMA, or to push the province to scrap the
agreement entirely.

"This is a severe blow to TILMA by municipalities" said Carleen
Pickard, B.C. spokesperson for the Council of Canadians, who is
attending the convention this week. "This is what citizens,
environmental, labour and social justice organizations have been
hoping for."

Councilors expressed almost unanimous support for the motion against
TILMA during the discussion preceding the vote. TILMA, which was
signed into law without public debate or legislative oversight last
April, is a legally binding agreement between B.C. and Alberta that
gives businesses and individuals the right to sue either province when
they feel that any regulation and local government policy "restricts
or impairs" investment.

Premier Gordon Campbell, one of the chief architects of TILMA, will
address the UBCM tomorrow with a speech on global warming.

"Councilors should question Premier Campbell on the contradictions
between TILMA and environmentally sustainable practices," says
Pickard. "Among other things, TILMA forbids municipalities from
passing local purchasing and green initiatives to lessen their
community's environmental footprint."

"The UBCM's vote, along with the rejection of TILMA by Saskatchewan
and Manitoba, will weaken the case for TILMA in Ontario and Québec,
where provincial governments are considering this deal."

For more information: Carleen Pickard, B.C. regional organizer for
the Council

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