Canadian Consulting Engineer

New trade agreement affects western consulting engineers

July 5, 2010
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

A new trade agreement between B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan is causing engineers in western Canada to sit up ...

A new trade agreement between B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan is causing engineers in western Canada to sit up and take notice. The so-called “New West Partnership Trade Agreement” came up several times in the cross-country reports given at the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada (ACEC) annual general meeting in St. Andrews, N.B. on June 26.
The new agreement is similar to TILMA (the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement) that has existed between B.C. and Alberta since 2006. The New West Partnership agreement came into effect on July 1, 2010 and will be fully implemented by Saskatchewan on July 1, 2013.  It means that consultants will be entitled to work on projects in any of the three provinces, that all tenders will be posted on a common electronic tendering system, and that public clients have to engage an open and transparent system for procuring their engineering services over a certain threshold ($75,000 for ministries and departments, municipalities, health regions school boards, etc., and $100,000 for crown corporations). The TILMA agreement’s procedural requirements for procuring engineering and construction services has been causing some confusion and difficulties for municipal clients in both B.C. and Alberta. Consulting Engineers of Alberta has been actively visiting these municipal clients to help them negotiate through new procurement practices, and CEA has been promoting the use of the national InfraGuide Best Practice for Selecting a Professional Consultant.
In launching the New West Partnership agreement, the three western provinces said they were creating “an economic powerhouse of nine million people with a combined GDP of more than $550 billion.” Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall said, “This represents an historic step forward for western provinces, as they work together to provide economic leadership.”
The Council of Canadians disagrees and opposes the new agreement on the same grounds as it opposed TILMA . The Council says the agreement will “encourage deregulation and the lowering of standards, apply controversial and expensive trade rules on procurement to cities, school boards and hospitals, and make government policy vulnerable to corporate lawsuits that could result in fines as high as $5 million.”
To find out more about the New West Partnership Agreement, click here


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