Atlantic Mayors Look for Increased Input and Water Exemption as Trade Agreement Talks Continue

The mayors of Atlantic Canada are concerned that municipalities are excluded from ongoing free-trade negotiations between the federal government and the European Union and want a voice in all future talks.

The mayors made their feelings known Thursday, April 12, during the Atlantic Mayors’ Congress held in Halifax. Their wish to be included in future rounds of talks for the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement reinforces the position taken by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

Mayor Clifford Lee of Charlottetown noted that, while provincial and federal representatives have directly participated in framing these negotiations, municipalities have been left out.

“As a legitimate level of government effected directly by these trade agreements, we deserve a seat at the table during negotiations,” said Mayor Lee.

He said that municipal leaders are concerned that restrictions could be incorporated in trade agreements like this that would fly in the face of long-standing domestic procurement policies. As well, Mayor Lee noted, “Water and the services connected to it should not even be considered within these agreements. We need to clearly indicate this to negotiators.”

The mayors have asked the FCM to bring their concerns to the federal government.

Delegates also discussed the state of Atlantic Canada’s economy and Green Energy initiatives. Fred Morley, vice president and chief economist with the Greater Halifax Partnership, addressed the mayors on the relative strength and health of the region’s economy.

Mayor Peter Kelly of the Halifax Regional Municipality expressed optimism about Atlantic Canada’s economic future.

“We are entering an unprecedented period of growth and prosperity,” he said. “We look forward to the opportunities coming to our region. The projections for job growth and the spin-off effects of such projects as the shipbuilding contract, further offshore oil and gas development and the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric and Transmission project, promise to produce hundreds of new jobs.”

Doug Keefe from FORCE, Fundy Tidal Power, described to delegates the potential of power production from turbines strategically placed in the Bay of Fundy. He said that the construction phase is underway and that the project’s innovations and technological advances will allow Atlantic Canada to become a worldwide centre of excellence for tidal power.

The Congress also heard how the HRM’s Solar Project can be a template for other communities to help homeowners take advantage of solar technology to heat water with rooftop panels. The role of municipalities in finding long-term financing and ensuring expert installation make it a practical energy upgrade for the Atlantic Region.

Superintendent Don Spicer, HRM Public Safety Officer, reviewed the strategic plan for improving public safety in the municipality. Policing has been a particularly important focus for the mayors and the initiatives outlined by Superintendent Spicer reflect many of the best practices adopted by municipalities throughout the region.

Outgoing Chairperson Mayor Basil Stewart of Summerside, P.E.I. turned over presiding duties for the Atlantic Mayors’ Congress to Mayor Woodrow French of Conception Bay South, NL. The next meeting of the Atlantic Mayors’ Congress takes place in Conception Bay South in October.