Nurses tell Premier to protect health and forgo trade agreements



    TORONTO, July 17 /CNW/ - As Canada's premiers gather this week for their
annual meeting, Ontario's nurses are urging Premier Dalton McGuinty to resist
signing on to inter-provincial trade agreements that weaken health, safety and
labour standards.
    Wendy Fucile, President of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario,
says such agreements pose a real threat to the health of people and the
environment. For example, the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement
(TILMA) between Alberta and British Columbia requires the provinces and their
agencies - including hospitals, public school boards and municipalities - to
prove that their rules and regulations don't impair trade and investment. If
they do, TILMA gives investors the right to sue governments.
    "These trade agreements have the potential to bring social and health
standards, which are meant to protect people, down to the lowest common
denominator," Fucile says. "If, for example, a government or a corporation is
allowed to challenge pesticide legislation in another jurisdiction, that
threatens the health of the public who deserve protection from harmful
toxins."
    RNAO Executive Director Doris Grinspun says it is not enough for
Ontario's Premier to resist the corporate push to join TILMA. Any agreement in
Quebec City to strengthen the pan-Canadian Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT)
is a step backwards, and one that goes against Premier McGuinty's commitment
to strengthen Ontario's social and environmental fabric. In late 2007, Ontario
and Quebec announced they were moving toward an agreement of their own. She
says such an agreement will threaten health care, particularly because Quebec
is moving ahead with privatization of health-care services.
    "These agreements are touted as innocent efforts to eliminate
inter-provincial trade barriers," says Grinspun. "The premiers may tell us
right now that investors won't have rights to sue governments. However, we are
concerned the steps they are taking today will subordinate public policy to
trade and investment priorities. Strengthening the AIT is part of a
deregulatory agenda that presents a profound threat to Medicare and other
social programs as well as the ability of governments to pursue the public
good."
    RNAO says nurses are aware that some barriers to labour mobility may need
to be addressed, but want to offer solutions that don't affect the social
fabric. "We need to focus on those specific issues with specific solutions,
rather than broad-brush approaches made without public consultation and
legislative debate," says Fucile. "If the premiers are truly interested in
protecting Canadians' health and well-being, they need to reject harmful trade
agreements."

    The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional
association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario.
Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in
nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care
system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.





For further information:

For further information: Jill Scarrow, Communications Officer/Writer,
RNAO, Ph: (416) 408-5604, E-mail: jscarrow@rnao.org


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