B.C.-Alta trade deal straightjacket 'loosened slightly'



    Concessions welcome, but TILMA agreement still constrains municipalities:
    CUPE BC

    BURNABY, BC, July 25 /CNW/ - An agreement announced today between the
Province of British Columbia and the Union of BC Municipalities responds to
some concerns about a controversial B.C-Alberta trade deal but leaves many key
issues unaddressed, says the B.C. division of the Canadian Union of Public
Employees.
    The Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), which comes
into full effect on April 1, 2009, covers municipalities, academic
institutions, school boards, and health and social service providers. Under
the agreement with the UBCM, the procurement thresholds for all these areas
has been raised to $200,000 from the original $100,000.
    Also announced today was a consultation agreement on dispute resolution
that will require the Province to consult with any B.C. local government and
the UBCM if a local government measure is ever the subject of a dispute
resolution challenge under the TILMA.
    "The straightjacket has been loosened somewhat," CUPE BC
secretary-treasurer Mark Hancock said today, "but the TILMA is still
unconstitutional, and it remains to be seen what other powers of
municipalities are up for grabs or could be challenged."
    Hancock noted that corporations will still be able to sue governments for
policies deemed to contravene the spirit of the TILMA; disputes will be
arbitrated in a private court system; and governments are still subject to
fines of up to $5 million.
    "We're glad to see that sustained pressure from public sector
organizations and municipalities has forced the government to rethink the
TILMA," said Hancock.
    "However, this doesn't settle the issue. Local procurement policies by
municipalities remain subject to challenge. Why should municipalities or
school boards be forced into an agreement that limits their ability to make
public policy that they feel is in the best interests of their communities?"
    Hancock said that CUPE BC would continue to raise public awareness about
the TILMA and discuss the union's concerns with the provincial government,
local governments, school boards, the BC School Trustees Association and the
UBCM.
    Earlier this year, constitutional expert Steven Shrybman released a legal
opinion that found the TILMA and its supporting legislation in B.C. and
Alberta unconstitutional. Hancock concluded that CUPE BC expects that this
finding will not change in light of today's announcement.





For further information:

For further information: Mark Hancock, CUPE BC secretary-treasurer:
(604) 340-6787; Dan Gawthrop, CUPE Communications: (604) 999-6132

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Canadian Union of Public Employees

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Canadian Union of Public Employees - BC Regional

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