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UPDATE: Harper pressuring provinces to ratify ICSID Convention

On August 15, I said the Council of Canadians would ask those provinces who have not ratified the ICSID Convention when they were planning to do so, and whether they would provide an opportunity for public comment. ICSID, which is housed at the World Bank, is one of several venues that hears investor-state disputes under rules established in free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties. The ICSID rules are particularly attractive to companies since panels established there can directly enforce awards to investors without the affected government having any recourse to domestic courts to challenge the legality of the decision.

Though Canada is a signatory to the ICSID Convention, it cannot fully take part in its arbitration rules until all provinces have ratified, which Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have not done. In response to news in August that they were about to ratify, we sent the premiers in these provinces a letter asking for the opportunity for the public to comment once ICSID ratifying legislation was introduced.

The Financial Post reported last week on an interesting response the Council received from NB Premier David Alward, which confirms the earlier news.

“The federal government has encouraged all provinces and territories that have not yet done so to pass legislation for the implementation of the convention within their jurisdiction,” Alward wrote us in an email, which left room for the possibility that the province may not ratify.

“At this time, the Government of New Brunswick is in the process of assessing the benefits and costs associated with New Brunswick implementing the ICSID. In the end, you can be assured that New Brunswick will introduce legislation implementing the convention only if we have determined that this convention is in the best interest of New Brunswickers.”

We’ll keep following this story and post news here. For more information on the ICSID Convention, the provinces, and our letter to premiers, see my older blog post here.