A year ago the proposed Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, or TILMA, was the boogeyman for municipal governments in B.C. and Alberta, something they felt would tie their hands when planning land use, procuring goods and services locally, and creating bylaws to protect the environment, create social housing, and prohibit certain products or activities.
Earlier this summer, after nine months of negotiation, the province and Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) confirmed that municipal governments would be subject to TILMA on April 1, 2009, as will academic institutions, school boards, and health and social service providers.
Economic Development Minister Ida Chong made the announcement on July 25, with the UBCM confirming participation in TILMA.
“Inclusion of local governments will help extend benefits of the TILMA to British Columbians in communities across the province,” said Chong.
The purpose of TILMA is to standardize laws and regulations affecting trade, investment and labour in B.C. and Alberta, and possibly other provinces and territories that sign on in the future. It is a business-friendly legislation that the province says will help grow both economies, reduce costs for local governments, and create thousands of jobs.
Supporters of the agreement include the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Canada West Foundation, the Business Council of B.C., and the Conference Board of Canada.
Opponents of the agreement — which as recently as 2007 included many municipal governments in B.C. — are concerned that the agreement will interfere with the ability of provincial and municipal governments to make laws or regulations that might interfere with the mobility of trade and investment, that TILMA will undercut unions and trade groups, and that TILMA gives companies the right to collect financial awards from the province if obstacles that exist for trade are not resolved.
Opponents have included the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM), although the concessions made by the province do neutralize some of the UBCM’s concerns.
According to Susie Gimse, Area C director for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and chair of the UBCM, the municipalities won a number of concessions in negotiation but did not get everything they asked for.
“The UBCM is member-driven and membership at the last UBCM convention in September gave us clear direction of the issues we needed to address on TILMA,” she said. “Our policy established 10 recommendations which we negotiated over the past nine months, negotiating directly with the province.”
Gimse noted that the TILMA agreement was already signed by B.C. and Alberta in 2007, with a two-year implementation period. For the most part, she said, the province was sensitive to the UBCM’s concerns, but they didn’t win all the concessions they asked for.