Monday, May 3, 2010

What's the deal with this "New West Partnership"?

If you've been following the proceedings of the Manitoba legislature you'll no doubt have noticed this question that Hugh McFadyen asked of Premier Greg Selinger (scroll down to "Western Provinces Partnership Agreement"):

Mr. Hugh McFadyen (Leader of the Official Opposition): Western Canadian provinces are working together to build the economy of the future, and the focus in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. is to work together in order to create more jobs and more income for their people to support health care and other initiatives going forward.

I want to ask the Premier if he can confirm that he'll be in Regina tomorrow for this exciting announcement regarding co-operation among western provinces.

Well, of course he wasn't (if he was going to be, Hugh wouldn't have asked the question). But is this the horrible thing that Hugh thinks it is? Erin Weir at Progressive Economics doesn't seem to think this agreement is such a good thing:

Saskatchewan had rejected TILMA because it empowers business to directly challenge a broad range of public policy, without identifying or solving actual problems. In addition to implementing that flawed model, the New West Partnership also hoses Saskatchewan in several specific respects.


The New West Partnership’s core is the “New West Partnership Trade Agreement” (NWPTA). If you do not want to read the whole thing, check out the five-page backgrounder.

The first page describes it as “a comprehensive agreement to remove barriers to trade, investment and labour mobility [that] covers all public sector entities, including government ministries and their agencies, boards and commissions, Crown corporations, municipalities, school boards, and publicly-funded academic, health and social service organizations.”

The second page provides for “financial penalties of up to $5 million if a government is found to be non-compliant with its obligations.” In case the reader still doubts that NWPTA replicates TILMA, page four helpfully notes that “British Columbia and Alberta fully comply with the agreement” already and then lists a series of “Saskatchewan-Specific Transition Measures.”

There is no quid pro quo: only Saskatchewan has to change its tendering system, regulations and standards. There is no compromise: Saskatchewan must harmonize to the existing Alberta-BC model.


Third, since Saskatchewan has a much wider array of Crown corporations than Alberta and BC, it is committing much more. For example, Alberta and BC businesses will gain a legally-enforceable right to access SaskTel’s procurement. But Saskatchewan businesses will have no parallel right to access procurement by Telus, the main telephone company in Alberta and BC.

Sounds like a neocon's wet dream to me. Selinger does well to stay the heck away from this.

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