Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

July 17, 2008 11:34 ET

The Agreement on Internal Trade Puts Quebec Model in Jeopardy

Attention: Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, Media Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO, IMMEDIATE RELEASE--(Marketwire - July 17, 2008) - Could the rates charged by childcare centers, by Hydro Québec or the compensation made by the Québec public auto insurance be deemed unfair competition and lead to penalties by virtue of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) now being discussed by the Premiers?

This could very well be the case according to the presidents of provincial and territorial labour federations now assembled in Québec City in parallel to the meeting of the Council of the Federation. "We observe a strong push by a powerful business lobby to deepen the AIT's ambit and to institute a binding trade tribunal system that could impose fines on provinces."

"Premiers would abdicate significant authority to private interests. The Québec Model itself could be challenged by the backdoor," Michel Arsenault declared on the behalf of labour leaders present.

A powerful business lobby: In a recent letter to Premier Jean Charest, on July 10, a powerful lobby of bankers, oil companies, chambers of commerce and manufacturers is expressing satisfaction with the fact that "(…) ministers (reached a consensus) on an enforcement mechanism to resolve disputes, including a tiered approach to monetary penalties in the event of non-compliance."

Up to now, the AIT was a political agreement based on the consensus of the parties involved with no binding settlement mechanisms or penalties. The current negotiation would essentially change that and open the door for corporations who might want to challenge a province or a municipality's laws and regulations if they are deemed 'barriers to trade'. This would import into Canadian domestic affairs what now exists with NAFTA and the WTO.

Real issues are not being addressed: "It is sad that the Premiers are wasting their time providing problematic solutions to the non-existent problem of trade barriers in Canada," said Wayne Samuelson, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. "Claims that trade barriers are costing up to .1% of GDP are not credible, have never been substantiated and are just an excuse to put constraints on government's ability to regulate. The fact of the matter is that trade among Canadian provinces vastly outweighs that with U.S. states."

"It seems to us that instead of putting forward erroneous solutions to non-existent problems, the Premiers ought to address the real issues such as the job crisis in manufacturing, high gas and heating oil prices."

A culture of secrecy: The labour leaders deplore particularly the veil of secrecy that shrouds the discussions around the AIT, discussions that could well subvert the principles of federalism and governments' ability to regulate in the public interest. They call on all parties concerned for public consultations on this matter in every jurisdiction.

More information: Dana Boettger
Ontario Federation of Labour, 416.443.7665

Source: FTQ
Information: Louis Cauchy, 514.235.3996

List of the presidents at the union meeting:

Michel Arsenault, Québec
Wayne Samuelson, Ontario
Reg Anstey, Newfoundland and Labrador
Darlene Dziewit, Manitoba
Jim Sinclair, British Columbia
Mary Lou Cherwaty, Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Larry Hubich, Saskatchewan
Alex Furlong, Yukon
Gil McGowan, Alberta
Carl Pursey, Prince Edward Island
Michel Boudreau, New Brunswick
Hassan Yussuff, Congrès du travail du Canada

/For further information: Wayne Samuelson
Ontario Federation of Labour

Contact Information

  • Dana Boettger, Communications Director, Ontario Federation of Labour
    Primary Phone: 416-441-2731
    Secondary Phone: 416-443-7665
    Toll-Free: 800-668-9138
    E-mail: dboettger@ofl.ca