TIMLA Raises Question Shape of Sask Economy PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 11 June 2007

The provincial discussions on  the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) raises the question of what kind of an economy is the most beneficial for the citizens of Saskatchewan.

TILMA was developed, advocated for and is being promoted by the special interests of the corporate sector.

As much as we analyze the negative and destructive impacts of TILMA it is also a key moment for us to consider what kind of economic development would best serve the people of Saskatchewan.

Citizens of Saskatchewan should be looking at alternative economic and social models that will serve all of our interests. As we have had to contend with various free trade agreements at hemispheric and regional levels, it is apparent that we need economic and social models that serve communities, and not the bottom line of corporate interests.

Saskatchewan has had a history of bucking the dominant trends and seeking solutions that put people over profits. We saw that in the development of Medicare, the Crown Corporation family to serve and provide vital needs, and the historic growth of the cooperative sector. Communities and  civil society groups are advancing economic and social alternatives that build healthy community. A dynamic partnership can be developed between levels of governance -  local and provincial - and communities to build in  Saskatchewan models of development  that challenge the premise that there is no alternative,  that we have to be "Alberta-sized" and follow the corporate agenda as put forward in TILMA.

There are some key things that we can do:

We could create a "Social,  Economic and Environmental Development Accord" that would have important components:

A firm commitment to re-vitalize and expand public enterprises, expansion of the social economy through community and worker controlled enterprises and cooperatives, a respect for and enhancement of quality public services and regulatory practices.

Local, regional and provincial development  plans would be developed in a participatory manner by citizens. These development plans would specify performance requirements to achieve objectives. This would include social and environmental "bottom line" audits to evaluate the full impact of investment plans. There would be community accountability mechanisms for communities  to speak to a corporation's activity. For example, the impact of large corporate hog operations, or oil exploration and drilling on water quality and levels.

A social audit would also include look at a corporations operations – what kind of jobs are being creating, is there security of employment, affirmative action employment, decent wages being paid, are occupational health and safety standard enforced and respected.

In effect a regional or local screening process would be created that would assess the merits of investment proposals,  and the net benefits to local communities and does the economic activity meet  what is needed to build a healthy community.

We could implement a Genuine Progress Index where we measure the full impact of economic activity.  It would be an accounting system that measures and values whether investment plans protect or destroy the resources of a host community. This could include whether proposed investment increases or undermines food security and regional and local food production, or whether there will be long term impacts on the environmental integrity and sustainability of an area.

These proposals are the opposite of what TILMA is proposing. Corporate interests have hi-jacked policy making on trade and investment.

Citizens and all levels of governance need to assert that trade and investment should serve sustainable community development. We need a citizens agenda,  " A Social, Economic and Environmental Development Accord" working with public governance structures that would include control and development of  critical forest, agricultural and non renewable resources. This citizens agenda-accord would  ensure that local resources are deployed for sustainable purposes.

Saskatchewan should  be a national leader in promoting and recognizing a citizen and community input into economic and social development  for  sustainable communities. With the global warming crisis looming over us it is time for us to re-assert the power of community and people in finding solutions that are sustainable, and build healthy communities for everyone.


Don Kossick

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