No doubt free trade is more important than democracy or any freedom of provinces to set different health safety etc. regulations. In fact rather than democracy what we need is deep integration with the US. This will allow capital free reign which is the ultimate aim of democracy under capitalist conditions. Of course this all trickles down benefits to the people for whom the government is of and for. There is bad democracy and good democracy. TILMA and deep integration stands for good democracy. Freedom to set different regulations is bad democracy.
Beware downside to latest trade deal
The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Re: Trading with the neighbours, May 15.
The Citizen editorial's extravagant enthusiasm for the B.C.-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) is seriously misplaced.
The debate about TILMA is a good example of unquestioning adherence to conventional wisdoms. In this case it's the all-too-familiar bromide that eliminating trade barriers will increase economic prosperity and equality.
Throwing cold water on this manufactured truth, though, are the facts about trade barriers and TILMA. The fact is there are very few obstacles to interprovincial trade and labour mobility. TILMA supporters in government and business are falsely claiming that differences in public interest regulation amount to trade barriers. There's no evidence that differences in regulation results in significant economic costs. In fact, the most credible research on interprovincial barriers finds they cost less than 1/20th of one per cent of GDP.
There are, however, significant downsides associated with TILMA. The agreement gives enormous power to corporations to challenge, via a disputes panel, all existing and future government regulations, including health, safety and environmental standards.
If the disputes panel decides the law or regulation "impairs" or "restricts" a corporation's investment, then the law is struck down and the government can be forced to pay $5 million in compensation to the corporation.
TILMA also eliminates local purchasing or favouring local suppliers or government support for rural development or small business, or assistance to economically depressed regions.
In effect, the provinces and all governing bodies lose their right to react to the political choice of their populations. Democratic decision-making is second-guessed by an unelected trade panel. Democracy takes a back seat to corporate interests.
TILMA booster Todd Hirsch of the Canada West Foundation says, "TILMA (is the) erasing of the provincial boundary for all purposes except voting and the colour of the license plate."
If TILMA spreads to other provinces, we could presumably eliminate provincial elections and just have referenda on the colour of our licence plates.
Governments of other provinces should look once, twice and three times before they leap into a dangerous deal they will undoubtedly regret.
Instead, any real trade barriers should simply be dealt with on a pragmatic case-by-case basis.
Larry Brown, Ottawa