TILMA and the Environment

Trade Agreement Could Undermine Municipal Climate Change Plans

Victoria, BC– Municipalities developing climate change action plans may face an uphill battle under the new BC-Alberta Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), despite provincial government assurances that “there is nothing in TILMA that would prevent either province from implementing a climate change action plan.”

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) recently recognized that TILMA posed a threat to municipal powers, including the power to protect the environment.  At their September 26, 2007 annual meeting, the UBCM voted almost unanimously to demand that TILMA be amended to address local government concerns, made inapplicable to municipalities—or scrapped.

During the summer, the UVic Common Energy group, which is working on the climate change issue, asked ELC student Freya Zaltz to prepare a report on how TILMA could impact local government environmental initiatives.  After Freya produced a detailed report on the issue, ELC articled student Melinda Skeels and Freya collaborated on producing a concise four-page legal analysis of TILMA’s impacts. Common Energy then distributed this analysis to every municipal government in the province prior to the UBCM annual meeting.

The brochure “TILMA and Local Government Environmental Initiatives” provides municipalities with a general overview of how their decision-making powers are likely to be constrained under TILMA.

TILMA, which came into force April 1, 2007, was signed without public input or discussion in the BC Legislature. It was drafted based on international trade agreements — but important sections were left out that could have been used to limit its reach and to protect important environmental and climate change initiatives from being challenged by developers and business interests. TILMA may also jeopardize municipal programs to support local businesses or agricultural producers, or regulate land use planning in ways that interfere with plans of Alberta companies to generate profit in BC.

Hopefully, the action by the Union of BC Municipalities will lead to changes in the new trade agreement to ensure that local governments have the powers they need to combat climate change.