Groups Say Stay away from New West Partnership

December 9, 2010

The Manitoba government should stay as far away as possible from the New West Partnership, says the Council of Canadians and Manitoba Federation of Labour. Both groups are concerned by information released on December 9 stating that Manitoba has held “exploratory discussions” with Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia about joining the unnecessary trade and investment pact.

“We’re seeing this anti-democratic wave rolling eastward but Manitoba needs to take a stand,” says Scott Harris with the Council of Canadians. “The New West Partnership is based on a myth that there are huge trade barriers between provinces. The real goal here is to hand enormous powers to corporations to challenge and discourage government measures that interfere with their profits. It’s about removing democracy from the picture and giving big business the main say in how our societies are run.”

The New West Partnership is a carbon copy of the controversial Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) signed by the premiers of Alberta and B.C. in 2007 without any public awareness or debate. Like TILMA, the Partnership has a “no obstacles” clause which broadly outlaws government measures that operate to “restrict or impair trade.”

Other specific concerns the groups share about the deal include:

  • Article 5 requirement to harmonize provincial standards and regulations to the weakest level in the region.
  • Exposing taxpayers to investor and corporate lawsuits of up to $5 million each.
  • Prohibiting purchasing policies that support local economic development.
  • The absence of any protections for public, not-for-profit health care, education and social services.
  • Article 13’s requirement to recognize job qualifications that don’t meet Manitoba standards.

“This deal would have a huge impact on Manitoba workers and their families, municipalities, First Nations and all Manitobans,” says Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck. “We need broad public input on this proposal before any decisions are made or agreements signed.”