General Questions

What do the provinces gain through this agreement?

The most significant benefit is that this agreement will provide greater, more secure access to the other province's market for businesses, investors and workers.

When did TILMA come into force?

The agreement came into force on April 1, 2007 for provincial governments, subject to a further two-year transitional period. It came into force on April 1, 2009, for municipalities, academic institutions, health authorities, school boards and crown corporations.

What was the transitional period for?

Because TILMA covers many areas of activity, both governments recognized the need to take the time to complete consultations and negotiations and to bring measures into conformity.

The transitional period gave both provinces time to work with the statutory bodies responsible for regulated occupations and to conduct consultations about expansion of the agreement to local governments, health authorities and Crown Corporations and to other sectors, such as financial services.

Going forward, British Columbia and Alberta have agreed to continue to work collaboratively as future measures are contemplated by one province or the other and will work together over the next year to define how the TILMA will apply to credit unions by April 1, 2010.

Additionally B.C. and Alberta have taken several steps to open up procurements to healthy competition that benefits businesses, taxpayers and consumers in both provinces. TILMA has:

  • Lowered provincial government procurement thresholds to $10,000 for goods and $75,000 for services. The previous thresholds were $25,000 for goods and $100,000 for services. The construction threshold remains at $100,000.
  • Lowered public-sector procurement thresholds for municipalities, academic institutions, school boards and hospitals (MASH) to $75,000 for goods and services, and $200,000 for construction projects. The previous thresholds were $100,000 for goods and services and $250,000 for construction projects.
  • B.C. Crown procurement thresholds will be lowered from current thresholds as of April 1, 2009, to $250,000 for goods and services and $2,500,000 for construction. As of April 1, 2010, B.C. procurement thresholds will match Alberta's thresholds of $25,000 for goods and $100,000 for services and construction.

What purpose is served by the special provisions section?

The special provisions section clarifies how the general rules will apply to certain economic sectors, such as transportation, labour mobility, procurement, and investment.

Is the special provisions concept unique to this agreement?

No. Almost all trade agreements detail how the application of the agreement's general rules is different for some sectors or industries. For example, NAFTA has chapters on energy and investment, while the WTO has separate agreements covering agriculture and services.

What, if anything, has been excluded from the agreement?

The two provinces have agreed that measures relating to water, Aboriginal people, taxation, royalties, health and social services, social policy and labour standards, will be excluded from the agreement. They believe the application of the general rules to such measures would not be in the public interest.

Does the agreement allow for province-specific exclusions?

Yes. However, as the objective was to liberalize trade and investment to the greatest degree possible, both provinces kept their exceptions to a minimum.

What conditions are placed on the exceptions section of the agreement?

All exceptions to the agreement are subject to an annual review by a Ministerial Committee. This committee will to look at how these exceptions can be reduced and covered by the general rules and special provisions of the agreement.

If necessary, can a province negotiate further exclusions to the agreement?

Yes. However, the agreement represents a balance of concessions and exceptions. If one province seeks additional exceptions, the other may try to restore this balance.

Is it possible to introduce a new measure that may be contrary to part of the agreement without seeking an exception for the measure?

Yes. TILMA preserves each government's right to establish or maintain standards and regulations in pursuit of legitimate objectives, such as public safety and security, environmental protection and consumer protection etc. or fundamental climatic, technological, infrastructural, or scientific factors.

TILMA requires that the other province is notified when new standards and regulations are being contemplated, and they must be developed in a manner that is as non-restrictive on trade, investment and labour mobility as possible. Essentially, this requires governments to consider the impact on trade, investment and labour mobility when developing measures, and to ensure that any negative impacts are justified and necessary.

Does TILMA affect the provinces' ability to introduce occupational health and safety measures?

No. The agreement calls on the governments to work together to enhance occupational health and safety standards. However, standards and regulations to protect occupational health and safety are considered legitimate objectives under the agreement, meaning that governments can introduce measures that do not fully follow TILMA if necessary to meet the occupational health and safety needs of workers.

What impact will the proposed changes have on public health and safety?

The provinces fully acknowledge that the primary role of regulatory bodies is to ensure public safety and consumer protection. TILMA labour mobility requirements are not intended to undermine this fundamental mandate of regulatory bodies. Each province will continue to set occupational standards as they see fit and as are supported by their governments. If necessary to ensure public health and safety, a government retains the right to impose training and examination requirements on incoming certified workers so long as the additional requirement is necessary to meet a legitimate objective.

What about differences in labour standards, minimum wage laws, and so on?

Labour standards and codes, minimum wage laws, employment insurance and worker's compensation are exempt from TILMA.

How can the agreement be amended?

Provinces must get the approval of the Ministerial Committee, with representatives from both provincial governments, to amend the agreement.

Can other Canadian jurisdictions join the agreement?

Yes. Any other province or territory of Canada, as well as the federal government, can join the agreement upon accepting its terms and conditions.

Can Alberta or BC withdraw from the agreement?

Yes. Either province can withdraw from the agreement by notifying the other of its intent to do so. The withdrawal would take effect one year after the notice was given.

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