B.C. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Joan McIntyre is encouraged by the federal government’s recent Speech from the Throne, going so far as to say a portion of the ideas are a result of Premier Gordon Campbell’s relationship with the prime minister.
“I think some of the Throne Speech and some of what the premier and our departments have been talking about have been issues our premier has brought to the forefront,” said McIntyre in a recent phone interview. “And I know the premier and our prime minister have a great working relationship.”
She highlighted labour mobility in particular. The Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), signed between Alberta and British Columbia in 2006, came into play in April 2009.
Supporters say it dismantles provincial barriers that have historically driven economic activity across international borders. It does this by harmonizing standards.
Critics call it a race to the bottom. Rather than elevate standards, they say, it lowers them, often leaving local governments hamstrung.
While a number of provinces at first resisted TILMA, the British Columbia government has been claiming success in winning over premiers.
“That’s one of the things our premier has been leading,” continued McIntyre. “At the first minister’s meeting in the summer, he got the ministers to agree, after many, many years, to the concept of labour mobility, and they’re working out the details.”
In delivering the speech, Governor General Michaëlle Jean broached the idea at the bottom of a chapter called Expanding Investment and Trade .
positioning Canada to compete for investment and market opportunities will
require action at home,” she said. “A fragmented regulatory environment for internal
trade and commerce has for too long restricted the flow of labour and
investment across the country. Our government will work with the provinces to
remove barriers to internal trade, investment and labour mobility by 2010.”
Homelessness also figured into the speech, with Jean saying the government would expand its Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). Announced in 2006, that program replaced the National Homelessness Initiative, which came to an end in early 2007. The current HPS is a two-year program of nearly $300 million designed to build “ structures and supports needed to move homeless and at-risk individuals towards self-sufficiency and full participation in Canadian society.” The original program was due for expiry in April 2009.
McIntyre said the pledge is a positive one for British Columbia and Squamish, where homelessness has been an ongoing problem, be it the hard to house or working people unable to afford ownership. Again, she credited Campbell with some of the impetus, saying his recent 10-point economic plan sewed some important seeds.
“As part of our 10-point economic plan, we’ve been trying to accelerate infrastructure spending,” she said. “The premier tried to mention to the prime minister the benefits of housing infrastructure. I was very delighted to hear that.”
Meanwhile, not everyone was so enthused by the federal agenda. Squamish Councillor Patricia Heintzman said the speech doesn’t amount to much in advance of the budget.
“To be honest,” she said, “stuff that’s said in the Throne Speech, I find it’s very rare we see it trickle down to implementation and effectiveness so I always take it with a grain of salt, both provincially and federally.”