McDonalds in Qualicum Beach?

Our neighbouring community of Qualicum Beach, 46 kilometers northwest of Nanaimo, prides itself on the absense of the type of fast food outlets which clutter Nanaimo and Parksville. Ladysmith, 23 kilometers to our south, doesn’t allow big box stores. This will soon change when the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between Alberta and British Columbia comes into effect on April 1, 2007. Negotiated in secret over the past three years, TILMA has not been subject to any public hearings or legislative review. The treaty gives individuals (companies) the right to sue municipal governments which create trade barriers. Beginning in April, if McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC come knocking on Qualicum Beach’s door and their business licenses are refused, the fast food barrons will be in a position to sue the city for $5 million in damages. Same routine if Ladysmith turns down an application by Walmart.

TILMA also threatens Nanaimo’s Urban Containment Boundary, which is intended to discourage urban sprawl. Beginning in April, any real estate developer who wants to build a subdivision or shopping center outside the UCB and is refused municipal services by Nanaimo could take our city to court for $5 million in compensation. Zoning bylaws prohibiting highrise buildings and inappropriate commercial developments in places like Departure Bay could be considered restrictions on investment. The ban on billboard advertising along the Nanaimo Parkway could also be actionable. These are only a few examples of the direct impact this little-known treaty will have on us all. All provincial and municipal regulations intended to protect the environment or social wellbeing of the population will soon be reduced to the lowest common denominator. To learn more about this backroom deal our provincial government is pushing through, read Murray Dobbin’s article Corporate Rights Deal to Make Us April Fools in The Tyee.

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