The Agreement on Internal Trade puts Quebec Model in jeopardy

    "It looks increasingly like a present to big business at the expense of
    citizens and government's ability to regulate."
    - Michel Arsenault, QFL President

    QUEBEC, July 17 /CNW Telbec/ - Could the rates charged by childcare
centers, by Hydro Quebec or the compensation made by the Quebec public auto
insurance be deemed unfair competition and lead to penalties by virtue of the
Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) now being discussed by the Premiers?
    This could very well be the case according to the presidents of
provincial and territorial labour federations now assembled in Quebec City in
parallel to the meeting of the Council of the Federation. "We observe a strong
push by a powerful business lobby to deepen the AIT's ambit and to institute a
binding trade tribunal system that could impose fines on provinces.
    "Premiers would abdicate significant authority to private interests. The
Quebec Model itself could be challenged by the backdoor," Michel Arsenault
declared on the behalf of labour leaders present.

    A powerful business lobby

    In a recent letter to Premier Jean Charest, on July 10th, a powerful
lobby of bankers, oil companies, chambers of commerce and manufacturers is
expressing satisfaction with the fact that "(...) ministers (reached a
consensus) on an enforcement mechanism to resolve disputes, including a tiered
approach to monetary penalties in the event of non-compliance."
    Up to now, the AIT was a political agreement based on the consensus of
the parties involved with no binding settlement mechanisms or penalties. The
current negotiation would essentially changed that and open the door for
corporations who might want to challenge a province or a municipality's laws
and regulations if they are deemed 'barriers to trade'. This would import in
canadian domestic affairs what now exists with NAFTA and the WTO.

    Real issues are not being addressed

    "It is sad that the Premiers are wasting their time providing problematic
solutions to the non-existent problem of trade barriers in Canada. Claims that
trade barriers are costing up to .1 % of GDP are not credible, have never been
substantiated and are just an excuse to put constraints on government's
ability to regulate. The fact of the matter is that trade among canadian
provinces vastly outweighs that with U.S. states."
    "It seems to us that instead of putting forward erroneous solutions to
non-existent problems, the Premiers ought to address the real issues such as
the job crisis in manufacturing, high gas and heating oil prices, and the need
to improve public transportation,"

    A culture of secrecy

    The labour leaders deplore particularly the veil of secrecy that shrouds
the discussions around the AIT, discussions that could well subvert the
principles of federalism and governments' ability to regulate in the public
interest. They call on all parties concerned for public consultations on this
matter in every jurisdiction.

    List of the presidents at the union meeting

    Michel Arsenault, Québec
    Wayne Samuelson, Ontario
    Reg Anstey, Newfoundland and Labrador
    Darlene Dziewit, Manitoba
    Jim Sinclair, British Columbia
    Mary Lou Cherwaty, Northwest Territories and Nunavut
    Lary Hubich, Saskatchewan
    Alex Furlong, Yukon
    Gil McGowan, Alberta
    Carl Pursey Prince Edward Island
    Michel Boudreau, NewBrunswick
    Hassan Yussuff, Congrès du travail du Canada

For further information:

For further information: Louis Cauchy, (514) 235-3996; Source: FTQ

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