Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nurses tell Premier to protect health and forgo trade agreements

Nurses tell Premier to protect health and forgo trade agreements


TORONTO, July 17, 2008 – As Canada’s premiers gather this week for their annual meeting, Ontario’s nurses are urging Premier Dalton McGuinty to resist signing on to inter-provincial trade agreements that weaken health, safety and labour standards.


Wendy Fucile, President of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, says such agreements pose a real threat to the health of people and the environment. For example, the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between Alberta and British Columbia requires the provinces and their agencies – including hospitals, public school boards and municipalities – to prove that their rules and regulations don’t impair trade and investment. If they do, TILMA gives investors the right to sue governments.


“These trade agreements have the potential to bring social and health standards, which are meant to protect people, down to the lowest common denominator,” Fucile says. “If, for example, a government or a corporation is allowed to challenge pesticide legislation in another jurisdiction, that threatens the health of the public who deserve protection from harmful toxins.”


RNAO Executive Director Doris Grinspun says it is not enough for Ontario’s Premier to resist the corporate push to join TILMA. Any agreement in Quebec City to strengthen the pan-Canadian Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) is a step backwards, and one that goes against Premier McGuinty’s commitment to strengthen Ontario’s social and environmental fabric. In late 2007, Ontario and Quebec announced they were moving toward an agreement of their own. She says such an agreement will threaten health care, particularly because Quebec is moving ahead with privatization of health-care services.


“These agreements are touted as innocent efforts to eliminate inter-provincial trade barriers,” says Grinspun. “The premiers may tell us right now that investors won’t have rights to sue governments. However, we are concerned the steps they are taking today will subordinate public policy to trade and investment priorities. Strengthening the AIT is part of a deregulatory agenda that presents a profound threat to Medicare and other social programs as well as the ability of governments to pursue the public good.”


RNAO says nurses are aware that some barriers to labour mobility may need to be addressed, but want to offer solutions that don’t affect the social fabric. “We need to focus on those specific issues with specific solutions, rather than broad-brush approaches made without public consultation and legislative debate,” says Fucile.  “If the premiers are truly interested in protecting Canadians’ health and well-being, they need to reject harmful trade agreements.”


The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.      




For more information, please contact:
Marion Zych
Director of Communications
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
P: (416) 599-1925/1-800-268-7199 ext. 209
C: (647) 406-5605