Politician and labour prez trade blows

Before offering opinions on the Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, Doug Graham should hit the books, says Yukon Federation of Labour…

Before offering opinions on the Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, Doug Graham should hit the books, says Yukon Federation of Labour president Alex Furlong.

He was responding to criticisms Graham, a city politician, leveled against the federation’s Stop TILMA campaign this week.

“I’ve both read the agreement and understand the agreement and I would urge him to do his homework and do the same thing,” said Furlong this week.

The federation asserts the interprovincial deal will override municipal authority in many areas, including zoning authority.

Graham disputes this conclusion.

And that led Furlong to challenge Graham to a debate on the subject.

Graham, who is also head of the Association of Yukon Communities, should be doing a thorough study of TILMA, said Furlong on Wednesday.

“If you look at the documentation that we have produced, it is factual and it is not incorrect and most of it has gone unchallenged,” said Furlong.

“I’m prepared to openly debate with Mr. Graham, any issue around TILMA, any time, any day.”

A debate’s not in the cards, said Graham on Thursday.

He won’t be Furlong’s straw man in the TILMA debate, he said.

“Ah hell, you see he wants to debate on the basis that TILMA is bad and someone else should think it’s good,” said Graham.

“I’d love to debate him on the finer parts of TILMA because I don’t think he’s read it, but, you know, I wouldn’t take the position it’s good because there’s a two-year review period, which is critical to municipalities in BC and Alberta.”

TILMA was signed by the Alberta and BC governments on April 1 and comes into force in 2009.

Under it, stakeholders to the agreement, including municipalities, have a two-year “transition period” where they can provide input and apply for exemptions.

The Yukon Federation of Labour is being a bit premature with its arguments, said Graham.

“I don’t see a whole lot in here that’s going to improve the lots of municipalities if TILMA is applied to the Yukon, but again, I’m not 100 per cent sure of that either.

“These guys have jumped the gun by screaming ‘it’s bad, it’s bad, it’s bad’ without really listening to what else is going on in the next two years.”

Yukon municipal officials will be discussing TILMA with their counterparts in BC and Alberta before taking a position on the agreement, said Graham.

Union officials have read the agreement, understand it and still believe it’s not good for Yukoners, said Furlong.

Whitehorse’s municipal government should make more of an effort to understand what TILMA is, what it means and how it could affect the city, he said.

“All I would say to Mr. Graham is this municipal council ought to be concerned, ought to do their own investigation and if he needs any encouragement from that he can call his colleagues, any one of the municipalities in BC.

“I am not convinced TILMA has any benefit whatsoever.”

A report by the Toronto-based CD Howe Institute — an economic and social policy think tank — has recently been released that reviews the pros and cons of TILMA, a report he’ll be reviewing in detail, said Furlong.

There could be some difficulties with TILMA, but that internal trade problems in Canada have to be addressed, states the report.

Procurement policies that restrict business competition, overlapping regulations, barriers to food and agriculture trade such as different food packaging and labeling rules pose challenges to Canadians, according to the CD Howe report.

Licensing and certification mobility restrictions also represent challenges, according to the report, which is available at www.cdhowe.org.

“The TILMA’s approach to reducing internal barriers is quite different from that of the Agreement on Internal Trade (Canada’s existing trade regime) and holds great promise.

“Its contribution to internal trade will depend on two things. The first is how successful BC and Alberta will be in meeting their negotiating objectives and actually creating a seamless provincial border.

“The second is the extent to which other governments will be able to draw on the TILMA as a model for improving or supplanting the Agreement on Internal Trade.”

By reducing internal trade barriers, consumers, governments and businesses can expect to pay less for goods and services, the report states.

Information on TILMA is available at www.tilma.ca.

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