Apr 20, 2010

B.C. Government: Truest of the Trade True Believers


Sometimes, the ideological rigidity of the current B.C. government is breathtaking.

Take B.C.’s approach to the recent Canada/U.S. Procurement Agreement (also known as the “Buy American” deal). That’s the agreement which gives temporary access for Canadian companies to a tiny portion of the U.S. government’s stimulus spending in exchange for provinces and municipalities giving up the right to use local purchasing policies to create local jobs.

Alone amongst the provinces, only B.C. failed to exempt even a single municipality or provincial agency from the terms of the agreement. That means even the tiniest villages and the biggest provincial Crowns in B.C. are all covered without exception.

The exemptions agreed to by all the  provinces are set out in annexes and appendices to the Agreement. The simple phrases that B.C. inserted throughout the deal are either: “All Crown Corporations and all muncipalities are covered.” or “All Ministries, Boards, Commissions, Agencies and Committees of the Province.” (..are covered). The only small exemption they sought was for the Legislative Assembly of B.C. itself.

Contrast that with the thoughtful and strategic approach of other provinces. For example, there’s our T.I.L.M.A. partner province of Alberta…often thought of as to the right of other jurisdictions. Alberta carved out exemptions for all small Alberta towns (all with a population smaller than Medicine Hat or Red Deer) and also achieved exemptions for the Alberta Local Authorities Pension Plan, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, the Alberta Research Council and much more.

Or there’s Saskatchewan, which carved out exemptions for all municipalities other than Regina and Saskatoon, plus eight Crown Corporations including the Saskatchewan Insurance Corporation.

Other protected exemptions elsewhere? Manitoba Hydro, Ontario’s Hydro One, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Hydro Quebec. School boards, post-secondary institutions and health authorities in Nova Scotia. Transit and highway procurement in Ontario. The list goes on to exempt dozens of agencies right across the country.

But not in B.C.  Here, everything is covered including B.C. Hydro, I.C.B.C., all the B.C. Pension Corporations, all municipalities, all school boards, all health authorities. Everything.

When it comes to trade, the B.C. government is the Truest of the True Believers. They have an ideological commitment which is basically all trade agreements, all the time.

British Columbians have a right to expect a government which takes a strategic and nuanced approach like all the other provinces. But we don’t have it. We have an ideological government instead.

Imagine what the B.C. government is busy conceding and giving up in the latest round of Canada/E.U. negotiations taking place in Ottawa this week.