The Harper Conservative government is dispatching ministers across the country in an attempt to counter mounting opposition to an investment and trade pact between Canada and the European Union.
Ministers are making a sales pitch without disclosing any details of the deal and ignoring public calls for full transparency in the negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. It’s buyer beware for Canadians, says the head of Canada’s largest union.
“This deal has far-reaching implications, starting with the new powers it gives foreign corporations to challenge the decisions made by federal, provincial and municipal governments and sue for compensation,” says Paul Moist, national president of CUPE. “That’s a fundamental and unacceptable shift in our democracy. Canada should follow Australia’s recent lead, and refuse to sign a deal that gives investors these types of sweeping rights.”
Moist says attempts to portray CETA as beneficial for workers is worse than just a sales job, it’s false advertising. “The trade minister has been repeating the same, pie-in-the-sky job-creation numbers for nearly four years,” says Moist. “Those numbers don’t take into account the global recession, and are based on fundamentally faulty assumptions, like Canada and the EU having full employment. The reality is that CETA will kill up to 150,000 jobs.”
The common concern that’s resonating across Canada is the lack of transparency in the CETA negotiations. From opposition members of the Commons trade committee, to more than 50 municipalities, the call for full disclosure is growing louder.
“Everyone is very clear this is a deal that will bring about big changes, but the government isn’t fully disclosing what those sweeping changes will be. Canadians have a right to know, and to have a say,” says Moist. “A deal of this scale and magnitude should be public. Part of democracy is being consulted and fully participating in major decisions like this.”
Yet information from the federal government is limited, with only proponents of the deal being fully informed. In the House of Common trade committee’s recent report, the opposition members articulated a very credible set of concerns, including a demand for full disclosure of the government’s negotiating position.
“Leaked negotiating texts confirm this deal gives European multinationals unconditional access to government purchasing and contracting, particularly at the provincial and municipal levels, and prohibits spending that aims to create local jobs or boost local economies. It also subjects provincial and municipal governments for the first time to international trade rules that limit their ability to enact social and environmental policies,” says Moist. “We aren’t anti-trade, but we are opposed to an investor rights deal masquerading as a trade agreement that will fundamentally reshape democracy in Canada.”