Agreement cuts provincial powers to govern
Date: Friday, November 10 2006
Fri Nov 3 2006
WHAT if a provincial government signed an agreement forcing it to make most of its regulations identical to those of another province? What if this government voluntarily made itself, and every municipality within its borders, open to lawsuits over virtually anything it did that restricted investment? What if it tied its own hands so that, no matter how much a region was suffering economically, it could not provide assistance that might "distort investment decisions?"
Well, there are no "what ifs" about it. This past spring, B.C.'s Gordon Campbell and Alberta's Ralph Klein signed an agreement with exactly these sweeping constraints on the ability to govern. It is called the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement. B.C. and Alberta trade officials are now shopping it around to other provinces to get them to sign on. The agreement comes into effect next April.
According to Todd Hirsch of the Canada West Foundation, the agreement could erase the borders between B.C. and Alberta so that the only differences between them will be "voting and the colour of the licence plate."
Except, once the agreement comes into full force, voting provincially in B.C. and Alberta could be a waste of time.
Under the agreement, the B.C. or Alberta government will be barred from doing anything that could "impair or restrict" trade, not only between the provinces but also through them to another province or country. One article just flatly decrees that there shall be "No Obstacles" to this trade.
Governments will be prohibited from providing subsidies that either directly or indirectly "distort investment decisions."
Some exceptions, such as for water, are permitted but even these are to be reviewed annually to get them reduced.
The agreement also requires B.C. and Alberta to "mutually recognize or otherwise reconcile their existing standards and regulations" if these "impair or restrict" trade, investment or labour mobility. Then it prohibits new regulations from being introduced that would have these effects. Since regulation always restricts investment in some way, the result will be that all future B.C. and Alberta governments will be prevented from strengthening their regulations.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 10, 2006]