Labour critics full of hot air

Members of the Yukon’s labour movement are spouting off against an inter-provincial trade deal without doing their homework, says a municipal…

Members of the Yukon’s labour movement are spouting off against an inter-provincial trade deal without doing their homework, says a municipal leader.

Rhetoric surrounding the impact BC and Alberta’s Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, or TILMA, would have on the Yukon may not be warranted, said Doug Graham, president of the Association of Yukon Communities.

Some of the information being thrown around by the Yukon Federation of Labour is false. And that undermines the credibility of the union’s arguments, said Graham.

“I was really interested to hear Alex Furlong’s statement the other day about TILMA and how the municipal governments should be very concerned and we apparently weren’t — I heard that on CBC,” he said.

“One of the things I have heard him say is that it will take decision making on zoning out of municipal governments’ hands, yet right in TILMA it says municipal zoning bylaws are exempted,” said Graham.

“It’s frightening to think those kinds of people, in this case Alex (Furlong, the president of the Yukon Federation of Labour), is leading the charge against TILMA when he obviously either hasn’t read it or doesn’t understand it and he makes irrational statements about that.”

Yukon’s municipal authorities are going to talk with their counterparts in BC and Alberta before taking any position on what effect the trade agreement will have on the territory, said Graham.

Alberta and BC politicians signed TILMA in April and the agreement is currently undergoing a two-year “transition period” where stakeholders from both provinces provide input and propose exemptions.

The deal’s operating principles call for the removal of trade barriers, reducing costs, increasing employment mobility, and a dispute-resolution process.

The agreement applies to both governments and their “entities,” meaning all legislation, regulations and policies of provincial governments are included alongside those of municipal governments, according to the agreement, which is available at www.tilma.ca.

The agreement also states businesses do not have to maintain local offices or be residents of the province they are doing business in.

Under the agreement, companies can bid on an expanded range of government contracts.

The deal would roll back previous thresholds applied by municipal governments.

For example, TILMA proposes that tenders be let for any work worth more than $10,000 for goods. Currently, that tender threshold is $100,000.

Service contracts drop to $75,000 from $100,000 and construction contracts drop to $100,000 from $250,000.

Commercial vehicle permitting and registration requirements are also to be relaxed and governments are not to provide businesses with subsidies that offer a competitive advantage except in cases of calamities, academic research, assistance in recreation programs and/or support for non-profit organizations, according to the agreement.

Other exemptions include First Nations, water, taxation, municipal zoning bylaws and height restrictions, social policy including minimum wage, renewable and alternative energy and royalties.

Furlong could not be reached for comment this week.