Saturday, May 01, 2010

Musical interlude

Andy Moor & Ashley Wallbridge feat. Meighan Nealon - Faces

Edit: fixed formatting.

On rulings

For all the attention paid to Peter Milliken's ruling this week, I haven't yet seen any commentary pointing out the contrast between the unequivocal statement of the supremacy of Parliament that has been rightly praised, and the rather weak remedy linked to the finding that the Cons have breached their obligations to Parliament. And it's worth pointing out not only that the disconnect exists, but also why it seems to have come about.

So I'll offer a reminder that Milliken's ruling results in a shorter timeline and more apparent pressure on the government than any of the opposition parties has ever been willing to demand. And it's not reasonable to expect a decision-maker to grant an outcome substantially better than the winning side of a dispute has bothered to ask for.

Once again, the opposition parties' willingness to compromise has resulted in their being in a worse position than if they'd actually stuck to the principle of genuine governmental accountability - both to Parliament and to the public. And the absolute certainty that Harper will play them against each other during Milliken's 14-day period (secure in the knowledge that agreement with one eliminates any risk of a finding of contempt) only makes it all the more likely that the result will be less of the truth coming out than should be expected.

Smiling while lying to you

Following up on my first quick post on the TILMA/WEPA/WAKKAWAKKAWAKKA (or whatever it's now being called to throw the public off the scent), its worth taking a closer look at what Brad Wall has locked Saskatchewan into following consultations which reached a strong consensus that it had no interest in being bound by the TILMA. Indeed, let's focus particularly on the two areas where Wall claims to have taken the province's concerns into account as a result of the public's distaste for the TILMA.

Wall claims to have dealt with two issues to try to assuage dissatisfaction with the TILMA: Crown corporations, and municipalities. So let's look through the WEPA as compared to the TILMA to see what's changed when it comes to those entities.

Predictably, the answer is: pretty much nothing.

Crown corporations are dealt with specifically exactly three times in the WEPA. Article 14 makes them generally subject to the agreement's procurement rules; Part IV labels them as "government entities"; and Appendix I gives them a reprieve from the effects of Article 14 until July 1, 2012.

And what's the significance of Crowns being "government entities"? Article 2.2 states as follows:
Each Party is responsible for compliance with this Agreement by its
government entities.
So every Crown is fully subject to every provision of the WEPA from the date it goes into effect, with only one limited, temporary exemption. Needless to say, that's Brad Wall's kind of protection for Saskatchewan's Crowns.

How does that compare to the TILMA? There...Article 14 makes Crowns generally subject to the agreement's procurement rules. Part IV labels them as "government entities" which are subject to the general provisions of the agreement. And Appendix I gives B.C. Crowns a partial temporary reprieve from the effects of Article 14 which expired April 1, 2010.

Not surprisingly, the same goes for municipalities. Of the seven mentions of municipalities in the WEPA, six are found in provisions identical to those contained in the TILMA, including provisions making them subject to the agreement as government entities. And the lone exception is the same time-limited exemption to the application of Article 14 alone that applies to Crowns.

In sum, Wall's claims run head-first into the fact that the WEPA in fact binds Crowns and municipalities alike by exactly the same rules as the TILMA. In each case, that's subject to exactly one, temporary exception - in an area where municipalities at least are generally bound by the Agreement on Internal Trade anyway. So the only available conclusion is that Wall simply doesn't care what the province has already told him about the exact provisions he's now signed onto.

Of course, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the latest effort to permanently shackle Western provincial governments involves just as much blatant deception as the first one. (After all, the initial spin about the TILMA - pretending the agreement featured some obligation to harmonize regulations to the higher standard applicable in one of the provinces involved - bore absolutely no resemblance to what was actually included.) But there's no reason why Wall should pay anything but a dear political price for so shamelessly lying to his province - particularly given some of the other areas where he can be fully expected to follow in Gordon Campbell's misleading footsteps given the chance.

Update: Fixed wording above based on Erin's correct observation that the AIT generally doesn't apply to Crown corporation procurement.

Burning question

So what on earth has the Sask Party been doing behind closed doors all these months if it was just going to lock Saskatchewan into the TILMA all along?