Key aspects of environmental regulation from municipal to provincial lawmaking will be turned upside down this Sunday April 1st when the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) comes into force. Although the aim of the agreement is to turn Alberta and BC into an economic powerhouse, a legal analysis of TILMA by Sierra Legal reveals it could seriously threaten the provinces’ endangered species and jeopardize potential initiatives to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
TILMA sets rules for all governments within the trade zone (including, in 2009, municipalities) and allows individuals and corporations to sue BC or Alberta for up to $5 million if its rules are broken, even if a government, including local governments, is acting to help the environment. The agreement does include some environmental exemptions regarding water and the promotion of renewable and alternative energy, but other government measures (laws, programs, policies) aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, or protecting endangered species cannot overly restrict trade or investment. No input from environmental groups or the public is required in coming to such a decision.
“It’s scary to think that a dispute panel created under an agreement aimed exclusively at boosting trade and investment can make such profound decisions on our environment,” said Keith Ferguson, Staff Lawyer with Sierra Legal. “In this time of increased awareness for the need to protect our environment, I find it unbelievable that the governments of BC and Alberta are pushing this.”
Environmentalists are particularly concerned that TILMA ignores global warming. “In this critical time for addressing global warming, it is shocking that Alberta and BC have not clearly exempted all measures that aim to reduce greenhouse gases,” said Ellen Gould, Research Associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“Global warming is one of the major crises of the twenty-first century that urgently requires the imaginative action of all levels of government,” added Carleen Pickard, BC spokesperson for the Council of Canadians, “but amazingly the BC and Alberta governments are putting up new barriers against such action by requiring that impacts on trade and investment be given consideration over climate change.”