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Provinces to clear way for workers

 

MARIANNE WHITE, Canwest News Service

Published: 7 hours ago

 

Canada's premiers and territorial leaders reached a deal yesterday to remove labour mobility barriers across Canada beginning next year.

 

The agreement, inked at the Council of the Federation meeting in Quebec City, will make it easier for workers trained in one province to do their job in another province.

 

"We believe working people and their families want to have a situation where they do not have to go through 13 separate accreditation processes, but rather one accreditation process," Manitoba Premier Gary Doer said at a news conference.

 

"We believe that a nurse is a nurse, a teacher is a teacher, a welder is a welder," he added.

 

Quebec Premier Jean Charest said it is important for professional qualifications to be recognized across the country as provinces face worker shortages.

 

"There are serious mobility constraints in about 25 per cent of jobs in Canada, so our task is to smooth away those last difficulties to create the most stimulating market," said Charest, who hosted the meeting.

 

The provinces expect full labour mobility to be effective on April 1, 2009, but will still have to work out how to harmonize professional credentials among provinces at a future meeting.

 

And certain professions will be exempted. Provincial labour ministers are to meet at a later date to develop a list of the exempted professions. It could, for example, include pharmacists, who are allowed to write prescriptions in Alberta but not in other provinces.

 

"We're very pleased with the significant progress we made this morning on labour mobility," said Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. "This is a bold step forward."

 

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the agreement makes the country more competitive.

 

"I'm not worried about Alberta and B.C., I'm worried about China, India, the U.S. and Europe," he said. "Also, I've got 100,000 jobs in Ontario that I can't fill."

 

The premiers and territorial leaders also expressed worries about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

 

"We feel it's very important as provinces and territories to do our share to nurture this relationship (NAFTA) and defend what is the most important trade relationship in the world," Charest said on behalf of his counterparts.

 

"There is a shared concern about the future of NAFTA, and we feel the federal government needs to be very vigilant in defending NAFTA and making it very clear that if Americans choose to question this trade agreement, everything will be on the table."

 

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has said he might want to renegotiate

 

NAFTA if he is elected

 

Also yesterday, the premiers approved a new mechanism to resolve internal trade disputes that will include an enforcement tool.

 

The old dispute system is based on consensus and contains no binding settlement mechanism or penalties.

 

"The former mechanism was weak, anemic and without effects," Charest said.

 

The new formula also provides for penalties of up to

 

$5 million for failure to comply with the terms of the agreement.

 

The dispute mechanism will be implemented as of Jan. 1.

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This is excellent news!

 

I don't think people fully realized the benefits of such agreements; free-flow of labour will make the country more productive by increasing inter-provincial competition.

 

Very good news.

 

I am amazed at how much more efficient the Council of the Federation have been at improving the federation than the federal government itself since the Conservatives took power...

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