Today’s Poll

Nelson Contracts Open to European Bidders?

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
February 8th, 2012

Will the City of Nelson’s independence be threatened by Canada’s involvement with the European Union in the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)? 

At the January 23 council meeting, Sandra Nelken, a local representative of the Council of Canadians, asked Nelson City Council to sign a resolution seeking to get Nelson excluded from CETA.

European competition for local suppliers?

Nelken explained that CETA would allow companies in  the European Union to bid on local contracts and to supply local services, in competition with Canadian or local companies. It could prohibit Nelson City Council from preferring local purchases, she said.

Union of BC Municipalities wants its members exempt

The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) appears to agree with the Council of Canadians. In 2010 it passed a resolution asking the provincial government to  “negotiate a clear, permanent exemption for local governments from the CETA.”  The provincial government responded vaguely. “As negotiations progress, the province will brief UBCM to receive input on potential negotiating scenarios,” said the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Investment.

National municipal body just wants limitations, not exemption

But the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the body that speaks for municipalities on national and international matters, is not asking for exemptions. 

The FCM has negotiated with the federal Minister of International Trade of a set of procurement thresholds. Any municipal purchase of less than $340,600 would not be affected by CETA. The same would hold true for construction contracts under $8.5 million. It seemed to be agreed around the council table that Nelson would rarely, if ever, reach those thresholds.

Nelson Council will wait and see

Nelson will not be asking for an exemption. At its February 6 meeting, Council decided that “Mayor Dooley in his attendance at the annual FCM meeting to be held March 7-10 in Kitchener, Ontario will report to Council about the Canada-CETA at the March 19, 2010 committee of the whole meeting and advise what, if any, further action is appropriate for the City of Nelson.”

Mayor Dooley is on the FCM committee looking at CETA.

Macdonald is sceptical

Councillor Donna Macdonald was the only councillor to disagree with the motion. (Councillors Bob Adams and Robin Cherbo were absent.)

“It is a much stronger and clearer position to say no, exempt us,” Macdonald said.  “Municipalities have never been drawn into these trade agreements before, and this is the first time the sub-national level right down to the municipal has been included, other than TILMA which is just interprovincial. 

“I think the UBCM resolution in 2010 was much stronger, just say no, leave us out of this, let us do our business the way we want to, and I think that is what the Council of Canadians is bringing forward. I agree that saying no would  probably be a symbolic gesture, but it is important in a democracy.”

But Macdonald did not vote against the motion, which passed unanimously.

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