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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Canada-European Trade Agreement - CETA

Canada-European Trade Agreement - CETA

Transcript of Peter Julian, UBCSUO Presentation Feb 2011
filmed by PeaceSeekersUBCSUO on YouTube


Peter Julian was first elected Member of Parliament Burnaby-New Westminster in 2004, re-elected in 2006 and again in 2008. He also served as critic on International Trade. He was a founding member of the Council of Canadians. Peter was previously a Financial Administrator, Community Activist and Manual Laborer. He also served as Executive Director of the Council of Canadians and former Executive Director for the Western Institute of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Council of Canadians is an organization that we should be very proud about in Canada. It’s quite unique. Citizens came together when NAFTA was proposed, and have since acted as a Government watch-dog, but as well as an advocacy group for social, economic and environmental justice.

Peter Julian

Yesterday, we saw something profoundly significant, and that was after 18 days of peaceful demonstrations. After the deaths of 300 demonstrators, after the disappearances of nearly 1000 individuals, but with incredible determination, we saw the Egyptian people rise up and throw out a despot who had been a dictator for over 30 years. President Mubarak left his office yesterday and was basically thrown out by the Egyptian people. And I think that’s something we should pay tribute to, that the Egyptian people were that courageous in standing up for democracy.

And I think it’s an important point to start because we know how important democracy is. And we know that democracy can be stifled and crushed by secret police, and by violence. But we also know that democracy can be signed away with the simple stroke of a pen.

And what I’d like to talk to you about tonight, why I think this Canada European Trade Agreement, also know as CETA is the sort of standard title now that activists are adopting across the country, poses a threat, fundamental threat to our democracy and also a threat to our quality of life here in Canada.

But before I start to talk about the details of CETA, what I’m going to do is touch upon 8 areas within CETA that I think are fundamentally dangerous to the future of our country. I’d like to actually take the other side, the Conservative side, and talk about the 4 myths that they put out; the 4 elements that they put out to justify the signing of these kinds of trade agreements.

Start off with Myth Number 1 that you hear about all the time in the media. Not the independent media of course, but in the corporate media, and that is, that free trade agreements have brought unprecedented prosperity to Canada. You hear it all the time. We hear it from lobbyists; we hear if from right-wing pundits, we see it all the time in big media.

Stats Canada have actually been following, tracking what has happened to Canadian income levels, Canadian family incomes since the implementation of the first free trade agreement, the Canada-US Trade Agreement in 1989. This is what they found.

  • Over the last 20 years, the middle class, that’s families earning between $40,000 and $60,000 have lost on average about 1 week of income for each and every year since the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement was implemented. Now that means they’re working a 52 week years of course, and being paid for 51. So there’s been a significant erosion of income. 
  • For the low middle-class; those are families earning between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, they’ve actually lost twice as much. They’ve lost an average of 2 weeks of income for each and every year since the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement was implemented.

  • And the most significant impact won’t be a surprise to you, is the poorest Canadians. Families earning less that $20,000 a year. They’ve lost on average, a month of income for each and every year since 1989. A month of income. Now just imagine trying to stretch your family income for that month. It’s like you’re being not paid for a month for every year. 

  • Another part of the overall income level that has changed dramatically is the wealthiest. Their income has skyrocketed. The top 20%, the wealthiest 20% of Canadian families have seen their incomes go up by 35%. And now the wealthiest take most of the Canadian income pie. They take 52% of all Canadian income.

So we can see that yes, Free Trade has brought unprecedented prosperity, but only to the wealthy in this country. Not to the rest of us. And the impact has been particularly profound among the youth of our country.

Now as you may know, what we’ve seen with starting wages, they are lower, much lower on the job market than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Most jobs that are created are actually part-time or temporary.  Most jobs that are created don’t come with pensions.

Let’s look at this picture for just a moment. We’re asking the youth of our country to assume record levels of student debt, the highest in the land tragically in British Columbia, go onto a job market where they’re being paid lower that ever; never getting that stable income. They will never have that stable family sustaining income, because most likely they’re going to get part-time or temporary work. And after they’ve worked through their entire career, they will end with a retirement that most probably will not come with a pension. We are fundamentally mortgaging the future of our nation’s youth. And far from having unprecedented prosperity in this country, we’ve actually seen that Free Trade comes at quite a cost to middle class and poorer Canadians right across the country.

Second Myth that they put out is that Free Trade agreements are essential for increasing exports.
Now the reality is quite the opposite. With every single bilateral free trade agreement that Canada has signed, our exports to those markets have gone down, not up. I’ll site one example; Costa Rica where our exports to that market peaked the year before we signed and implemented a Free Trade agreement. And ever since then have been below.

In every single case exports have gone down, not up. And though over time there have been some adjustments, what we see from DEFAIT, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is a convenient fiction. When they publish the trade statistics, they never do it in constant dollars, in real dollars. They always use current dollars which is a convenient way of comparing apples to oranges.
Reality is exports go down, not up. And where we haven’t signed free trade agreements is where we’ve seen a significant increase in exports.  

Myth Number 3. Free trade agreements that Canada signs are ‘ideologically neutral’; that everyone should support this free trade agenda because it’s "neither left nor right. It’s neutral.
Now we know that we have a Government that is ‘ideologically extreme’. We’ve seen that with:
·       the eliminations of the long-form census,
·       cutting funding for progressive organizations,
·       massive and irresponsible corporate tax cuts,
·       and massive prison building for unreported crime, at a time when they’ve cut crime prevention programs.

What is wrong with that picture?

So what we have essentially is an ideologically driven right-wing government. And in each and every one of the Free Trade agreements that they put forward, there’s not been a single progressive element brought forward; none of the examples like Mercasur in South America where they have included a very comprehensive social program package in their trade agreements. In Europe where there are a wide variety of progressive approaches on trade; fundamental labor and environmental in legislation, human rights legislation, a wide variety of progressive components in trade agreements there as well.

In absolutely none of the trade agreements that this government has signed or the previous government, have there been any of those progressive elements. So far from being ideologically neutral, what we are seeing with these trade agreements is a very, very hard drive to the right.

Now the fourth myth is something you’ll hear from the International Trade Minister often. That before each trade agreement; the Government evaluates the positives and the negative and then makes the decision, based on what is best for Canada.

The truth is, that is completely false. In none of the trade agreements that Canada has signed, had there even been a comprehensive impact study. 

Now as far as CETA is concerned, the International Trade Minister waved the study, which talks about economic benefits to the country. And I’ve looked at the study. This is what is says.

·      It pre-supposes that we will not lose one single job as a result of signing this agreement, anywhere in the country.
·      It doesn’t take into consideration the impacts on our procurement programs, our health care costs, not a single thing.

It is just rough and shallow and superficial cheerleading. In every single case the government has done the same thing. Rather than doing a comprehensive impact study; rather than doing its homework, it simply signs and devil the consequences. What have been the results?

  • The softwood lumber sell-out. We, also in British Columbia particularly, it’s cost us so far, $1.2 Billion in penalties and fines and over 50,000 jobs. 
They didn’t do an evaluation to determine what the impacts would have been of signing that agreement. And tens of thousands of British Columbian families and families right across this country have lost their bread winner as a result of that.

  • The ship building sell-out that was signed with EFTA, just 2 years ago, has lead to a significant job loss in the ship building sector. Again, no evaluation or impact study was ever done.

  • And the ‘Buy American’ deal that you heard about in January (2011). It gave up access to $30 Billion in procurement in Canada. It basically said that American companies can come in and apply for those contracts and in return, we were supposed to have access to the American market. Except that never happened. Companies like CREW(sp?) Company applied in the United States and they said “no, we’re not going accept your application because we have a ‘Buy America Plan’. Canadian companies cannot apply.

Now on Thursday in Ottawa, the bureaucrats from Foreign Affairs and International Trade came forward and asked the question. How many cases are there where Canadian families, where Canadian companies were actually excluded from ‘Buy American’ contracts they should have been able to bid on? And how many cases did American companies get access to Canadian contracts. They had no idea. They said, “We don’t track that”.

They don’t track that, but they’re in the process of sitting down right now with the United States to negotiate the second phase of this ‘Buy America’ deal. No evaluation on job loss. No evaluation on economic impacts. So the fourth myth – This government knows what it’s doing, that it does its homework is completely is absolutely false. This is a government that careens into trade agreements with absolutely no understanding of the consequences. That’s the reality.
Those are the 4 myths. 

Let’s turn now to what is in CETA. And we’re fortunate to know what is in CETA because at least one bureaucrat with a conscience, has on 2 occasions, leaked the draft text on CETA. Which is why in civil society within the NDP, the labor movement, we’ve been able to get those draft texts and actually surmise what is in this agreement (end of Part 2)

Here are the 8 sectors that I think we should all be most concerned about. And the 3 sectors that are most dangerous to Canada.

First is the Investor-State or Chapter 11 Provisions. Who has heard of those provisions? Investor-State, Chapter 11. Chapter 11 of NAFTA includes what they call the Investor-State Provisions.

The Investor-State Provisions actually allow companies to sue Governments when governments make decisions in the public interest. So a government makes a decision, whether that’s local or provincial or federal, and they say “This is in the public interest. This is our decision.” The company can then say, not because of the ‘direct’ impact on their profits, but on ‘possible’ impacts on their ‘future profits’, they can use these Investor-State Provisions, the Chapter 11 in NAFTA, to sue our governments.

Let me give you 2 examples:
  • Ethyl Corporation manufactured a neurotoxin, MMT, with serious dangerous health impacts. The Canadian government fortunately acted and banned that product. Banned MMT. And Ethyl Corporation said well that’s going to have an impact on the potential of our future profits. They sued Canadian Taxpayers and Canada was obliged to cough up $15 Billion in compensation for a product that was known to be toxic and deadly. Absurd. But that’s how Investor-State Provisions work. (Ethyl Corp Sues Canada

  • Here’s another example, more contemporary. AbitibiBowater, a company in Newfoundland/Labrador. They took extensive timber rights and water rights in Newfoundland/Labrador, signed a contract to guarantee jobs in return. It was a contractual agreement. AbitibiBowater said “we’re not going to keep this contract. We’re going to shut down these mills.” Newfoundland/Labrador government, with unanimous support of the democratically elected legislature, all parties, Liberal, Conservative, NDP voted to take back the timber rights and take back water rights because they had reneged on the contract. AbitibiBowater sued. And last summer, Federal Government took money out of every taxpayer; money out of their pockets and paid $130 Million in compensation to AbitibiBowater for AbitibiBowater refusing to keep their side of the contractual arrangement with the Government. 

$130 Million would take 20% of the all seniors living in poverty in this country, and lift them out of poverty. That’s a considerable amount of money. And the real kicker here is that the Chapter 11 provisions were set up to protect American companies in Canada. The idea being, that foreign companies be treated on an equal footing with Canadian companies. But AbitibiBowater is Canadian. So how did they use these Chapter 11 provisions? How did they use these Investor-State Provisions? Well they had a mail box in Delaware and they used that to attack our Canadian Government.

Now the problem with CETA is it has Investor-State Provisions on steroids, which means more companies will be able to use these provisions. And now because of the AbitibiBowater precedence, it means it’s not going to be European companies attacking our government, it can be Canadian companies, it can be American companies, or South American companies. All you need to do is open a brand in Europe or put in a mail box application and all of a sudden, you’re European and you can sue Governments for decision they’ve taken in the best interest of the people of their jurisdiction.

That is perhaps the most egregious, the most dangerous component of all in CETA. The expanded Investor-State Protections which allow companies to then use their own special courts. Now these companies actually have a role in choosing the judges as well, so they’ll be using their own special courts to attack our governments.

Now another risk with an Investor-State is as many of you know from the past in NAFTA; bulk water exports, under NAFTA, are not considered a commodity until a province in this country decides to export bulk water. Now what we’ve had since NAFTA was signed, province after province after province tempted to allow those bulk water exports and once that faucet is turned on, it can never be turned off. And I just want to pay tribute to Council of Canadian Activists across the country. Because so far, every single time a province has tried to move towards bulk water exports, Council of Canadian Activists has been there and they pushed those provinces back and shut them down. So to date, we haven’t had any bulk water exports and that’s because of the Council of Canadians. I pay tribute to them. But that continues to be the risk. That bulk water exports, that Investor-State Provisions, that that decision so far, to not have exporting of our water could be over turned because the Investor-State Provisions could mean that companies will be asking for huge amounts of compensation.

Second component in CETA is Agriculture.

The Government has admitted publicity that the entire supply management sector is on the table. Now this unique Canadian innovation and what it does is: guarantee stable prices to producers and supplies to the consumers. And other countries are looking at it just because it provides that kind of stability in Canada.
It provides stability in the dairy industry, in the poultry industry, in the egg sectors. Now let’s just compare for a moment what it means to have a supply-manage sector compared to the kind of free-for-all, free market in agriculture that the conservatives love to talk about.

Now Alberta for example, more of a free market kind of place for agriculture has the lowest farm receipts in the entire country. The agricultural sector in Alberta, is worse off than anywhere else. When you look at the so-called free market sectors, here’s how they performed in 2010.
  • The average cattle farm in Canada had a net operating income of minus $15,000. They lost money.
  • The average hog farm in Canada in 2010 had net operating income of minus $166,000.
So those free market agricultural areas are not doing well. 
What’s happened in Supply-management?
  • In egg and poultry, the average net farm receipts were $87,000 for the good, in Canada.
  • And for dairy farmers, it was $88,000 to the good, to the positive.

What that means is the supply-management provides a real basis for rural agricultural communities. It provides an anchor stone. And you can see across the country, those where you have free market agriculture, those communities are dying. And the communities that depend on supply-management sector, those communities are thriving. Supply-management, the cornerstone of Canadian agriculture has been thrown on the table in CETA.

Secondly, the Conservatives as you know have been trying for a number of years to do away with the Canadian Wheat Board. They’ve attacked the Wheat Board, they tried to rig the elections and a funny thing happened. They were supposedly standing up for Canadian farmers. And Canadian farmers now, year after year after year have elected a solid majority of pro-Canadian Wheat Board Directors to the Canadian Wheat Board.

Those are the farmers speaking across the country. They’re saying they want the Wheat Board. So since the farmers want the Wheat Board, the Conservatives can’t do away with it that way. What have they done? They throw in on the table on CETA. What they have done is they have put all the loan and initial payment guarantees that farmers depend on in the Wheat Board. They put it on the table for negotiation. So what they’re doing is destroying the Wheat Board by giving it away, over to the European Union.

Thirdly on food safety: Now the agreement as we have it now would allow for no audit or inspection on food imported from the European Union. You’ve heard about these recent outbreaks such as tainted milk products from China going through the European Union? We would no longer have the right to inspect or audit that food, unless there are outbreaks and people are sick or die. Then we can move. That is the agricultural components of CETA as put on the table with CETA.
There’s one other element I’ll come back to a little later on, and that’s what they’re doing with seeds. Absolutely appalling.

Third area, Public Services.

Now we the big European corporations and they’ve clearly targeted and they want access to Canadian Public Services such as our water, our utilities, our Health Care, and our mail delivery. So let’s look at what that could mean for Canada?

The water companies particularly have been incredibly controversial in Europe. International water companies that have operated abroad both in Europe and elsewhere have been involved in a number of controversies and scandals involving simple access to water; South Africa and Africa, South America and elsewhere. Now how many of you have heard of Cochabamba, Bolivia?

Here’s just one example of how the European water companies actually operate.

  • The company is called International Water Corporation. It took over the water supply, the water utility of Cochabamba, Bolivia. And what they did next, was jack up the prices so that the cost of water in Cochabamba having that access to water was about a fifth of the daily wage. Many people in the community couldn’t afford those rates. And the company signed a special contract with the city that actually prohibited the collection of rain water. So the company is refusing service to those who can’t pay a fifth of their daily wage and the company is saying that rain water that’s ours. You can’t collect it for your family. Understandably, the people of Cochabamba, much like the Egyptians did over the last few weeks, revolted. A number of them died. There were peaceful demonstrations that were met with violence by the State. But eventually, people of Cochabamba kicked out International Water Corporation and they restored public ownership utility in the area. This is the kind of treatment that we see form European water companies and this is something that we have to be apprehensive about.

Secondly, EU Health Care Corporations are targeting Canadian Medicare.

We know what happens when that happens. In the United States they have private health care corporations and the cost of their health care system, even though millions of Americans still are not covered, even under Obamacare, is twice as much per person than it is in Canada. They have a poor system, but it costs twice as much. And the same health care corporations that have driven up costs in the United States and some parts of Europe, now want to come in and take over portions our Health Care, our Publically Funded Public Health Care system. Now the problem is as I mentioned earlier, with Investor-State, once those areas are privatized, and the health care corporations move in, if government ever sees that the folly of privatizing our health care and tries to take it back, they are going to be subject to massive compensations claims, that we the people of this country, the tax payers of this country, are going to have to pay.

Thirdly, when we talk about public services, the attack on our Public Postal Services and this has got to be concern clear across the country, particularly in rural areas of the country.

Our universal public delivery service is based on the concept that the low cost, high density urban areas, subsidize in a sense, the high cost low density rural areas. That’s what it means to have universal postal services. If you start to cream that off and privatize the portions that are most interesting for profit hungry corporations, what you end up with in rural areas is either gutting service or sky-rocketing costs. And what does that mean for small businesses in those rural areas? And what does it mean for the individuals? Either scenario means that rural areas of our country will be hard hit by privatization of our public services and postal service.

Fourth Section is Public Procurement.

Now we all know the multiplier affect of tax payers dollars. In the municipalities, in the province, when we take tax dollars and we purchase something locally, that means that the dollars go further. And study after study after study have proven when you purchase locally, you are making a much greater use of the tax payers dollar than you are ever, if you buy a much cheaper good, cheaper service form off shore. The big European corporations want to take on our public procurement. And so this is what the impacts will be for example, at the municipal level; the use of that fundamental principal of the use of the tax payers dollar locally to stimulate the local economy. The Columbia Institute released a study a few months ago that says this about the CETA procurement rules.

CETA prohibits municipalities from using procurements as a local economic or social development tool, by using local or Canadian goods, services or labor.
·          So No Longer possible to have social development through your municipal procurement.

CETA prohibits for strategic purposes such as green technologies by using local or Canadian goods, services or labor.
·          And that would include such programs in Ontario as the Green Jobs Fund which was designed to set up green technologies and stimulate the green technology sector in Ontario. Prohibited by CETA.

CETA prohibits procurement for sustainable development such as promoting food security by adopting ‘buy local’ practice.
·          Now this is particularly relevant in rural area of the country. In the Okanagan for example where there is a healthy agricultural industry, you can no longer have the ‘buy local’ procurement policies that have allowed local agriculture and organic agriculture to thrive. All prohibited by CETA.

And that’s why the Union of British Columbia Municipalities most recent meeting said “No” to CETA and said they wanted a complete exemption of Municipalities across the country. Now just on this note, I’d like to say, contacting your Local Municipal Councilors and School Board Trustees; this would be very helpful. This is something that Municipal Councilors and School Board Commissioners are just starting to understand.

Last night in Nelson, we had a standing-room only crowd and many of the people in the room were either with the Regional District, the School Board, or City Council. They weren’t aware of these provisions. So this is something as activists, we are going to have to get out there.

Fifth Area – Health Care Costs.

Now this is something that struck like a bomb earlier this week. It’s a study that was done by two professors, Paul Grootendorst from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto and Aiden Hollis who’s with the Determent of Economics at the University of Calgary. It came out just a few days ago. And this is the Impact Assessment of Proposed Pharmaceutical Intellectual Property Provisions

When we talk about health care costs, this is fundamentally important. This study is making waves in the Provinces across the country. Because what this study says is that CETA will be adding nearly $3 Billion dollars annually to our Health Care Costs. How does it do this?

Well it extends the Intellectual Property protections to big Pharmaceutical Companies so it takes longer to get the cheaper generic drugs on the market. Now of the $3 Billion, it’s a quarter of a billion dollars that would be the impact to British Columbia’s health care system.

How can the BC Government say 'yes' to provisions that as tax payers are going to cost us a quarter of a billion dollars more. And where is that money going to be found when you’re throwing away a quarter of a billion dollars? So the Provinces, just over the last few days, started to wake up to the realization that the Harper Government has not come clean with them and has not given them the impact analysis necessary to evaluate this agreement. Now about 50% of that $3 Billion will go on Provincial Health Care Plans – that’s about $1.5 Billion. The rest goes to either private health care plans which means your premiums go up, and to individuals themselves.

Now we have hundreds of thousands of poor seniors in this country, who depend on their medicines for their quality of life, and we know already that their dollars are stretched. We are now putting our own Canadian seniors in a situation where they’re going to have to choose between the medicines that keeps them in good health or eating or heating. Despicable, inappropriate and that is where the Harper Government is going with provisions that will severely damage our Health Care System.

Sixth Provision of CETA is the Environment.

Now we all know as inhabitants of this planet, the biggest challenges we face is the climate change that is caused by green house gas emissions. Now our oil sands in Northern Alberta cause 3-5 times the amount of conventional oil production. The green house gas emissions are 3-5 time greater.

According to a study that was commissioned by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Friends of the Earth Europe, the Government will be able to use the provisions of CETA that I mentioned earlier, particularly the Investor-State provisions, to stop the European Union from bringing in regulations against high green house gas emission products, such as the products coming from the oil sands.

The fear is also in the environmental movement, that multi-national corporations can use these so-called Kangaroo courts; these special courts that are set up, where they get help name the judges, to challenge existing environmental regulations and oppose new ones.

Seventh Area – Arts and Culture and Communications.

In NAFTA, there was an arts exemption that has been thrown away on CETA.

In other words, our arts and cultural industries could be subject to the same challenges by the big trans-national corporations, backed by those Investor-State provisions that I mentioned to you earlier, that we see in all other sectors.

Our culture is our ability to communicate with each other and communicate with Canadians right across this great land. If we now have a situation where a European Corporation or an American Corporation masquerading as a European Corporation can use Investor-State to undercut the cultural subsidies and the supports that we provide to our arts and culture sector, what could possibly be left. This is why the Canadian Council of the Arts has expressed profound concern about the direction that this government is going in. And the Arts sector is starting to wake up to the realization that there is a very real danger and threat posed by CETA.

In telecommunications, Canada controls its telecommunications sector as you know, and we have foreign control limits. Our telecommunications sector has to be under Canadian control. We’re not the only country that does this. The United States does it. Australia, Japan, China just to give other examples. Our telecommunications and Canadian ownership of our telecommunications sector, thrown on the table like everything else, irresponsibly by the Harper Government. So in arts and culture and communication you’re seeing the same threat that we’re seeing in other areas.

And the Final area that I’ll touch on, at least in this part. And believe me there are many parts of CETA that also have negative impact is, Intellectual Property.

Now I mentioned earlier what the impacts will be on our health care costs and they are considerable. Now listen to this.

There is a seed directive called ‘UPOV91’ I’m not sure if any of you have heard of it. I hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks ago. ‘UPOV91’. This was a directive that was attempted to be brought into Canada. And it was brought into the United States. What it simply does is allow exclusive private ownership of seed, seed washing and seed storage.

What it means is that farmers can no longer clean and store their own seed. It means that every year, they have to go to the big multi-nationals in order to obtain the seed that they want, in order to produce the food that feeds us.

Now in the United States, they succeeded in bringing this in - UPOV91. As a result of that, they’ve been able to attack farmers who haven’t followed, to the letter, the very careful corporate directives, of Monsanto for example, holding onto their seed. The average lawsuit brought against small American farmers under this directive is $385,000.00. That’s the average.

It has crippled the agricultural industry and the freedom of seeds in the United States and now it’s being brought into CETA. Just to show you what this means for Canadian farmers, we’ve managed to maintain public access to some of our seeds.

For example in wheat, because of the research and the past and the background of agriculture Canada, our wheat sector is largely a public seed sector. Canola is private sector and over the past 20 years, even though canola and wheat have both risen the same amount; about an 80% price increase, over 20 years which is normal over that period. It’s the difference in the seed cost that is so significant.

The seed costs for canola, private seed has gone up 600% over that same period. Whereas wheat seed, public seed, has gone up about the same amount as the crop seed itself.

So to bring this intellectual property protection UPOV91 into CETA means that our farmers will be crippled under the direction of Monsanto and other related companies, for ever more. And that’s why the National Farmers Union has said so very clearly that they are fundamentally apposed to CETA and will do everything to stop it.

Now the European Commission is negotiating this on behalf of Europe and the European Commission which is elite bureaucrats to say the least, beholden to very powerful industry lobbyists from the corporate sector in Europe. But what is interesting about this whole discussion about CETA is that for the first time, this agreement will actually be subject to approval of the European Parliament. Now that makes this issue and this fight around CETA a much more different one than it might have been if the European Commission as it could before, just sign on behalf of all Europeans.

I travelled to European Parliament just a few weeks ago, at the end of November, and I met with a number of the Parliamentarians along with our Trade Committee which is composed of mostly Conservatives and some Liberals. In fact one of the members of the Trade Committee is the Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative Ron Cannan. And it was for me particularly, a personal pleasure to walk into the European Parliament and meet with their Trade Committee.

You see in Canada, we’ve got one New Democrat, a couple of Bloc Members, and then Liberals and Conservatives. So it’s an incredibly right-wing group of people. But in Europe fortunately, there’s a different electorate and they walked in to a meeting with their Trade Committee composed of Environmentalists Members of European Parliament, Democratic Members of European Parliament, Leftist Members of European Parliament, Progressive Members of European Parliament. The European Parliamentarians started going after the amount of environmental issues on CETA and why this would possibly help stimulate oil sands production.

They talked about Investor-State and their concerns about this Investor-State Provision coming to Europe; this cancer in our trade agreements in North America coming into Europe. And as these progressive Members of European Parliament spoke, there was massive culture shock on the Conservative side. Their mouths hung open because they couldn’t believe that there were so many progressive people on the planet, and that they were attacking some of these fundamental issues.

The point I’m making is this, the European Parliamentarians are very bright, very progressive people and so this agreement with all the egregious elements we’ve been talking about is by no means a done deal. No means at all. Because the resistance that is starting to come in Canada and the resistance that is starting to come in Europe is a fundamental reaction to the bad policy that we see here.

I mentioned earlier there’s not a single bit of progressive policy in CETA - no reflection of the progressive traditions in Europe on social programs and environmental and labor standards and human rights standards. None of that at all. And in Canada, we should be seeking our inspiration in this types of fair trade components that are in many of the agreements that Europe signs, because that’s fundamentally what the issue is.

This issue isn't about CETA so much as it is about the kind of country we want to see.
As Canadians, we’ve built an enviable place on this planet, because we built it collectively. We built it together with the kind of social programs, the social safety net that certainly in past decades, helped support all Canadians. We built a universal public health care system that is the envy of other countries in North America. And we built that together. And it’s fascinating to know that when Canadians were asked just a few years ago, who is the greatest Canadian in our history, they chose overwhelmingly Tommy Douglas, the father of Canadian Medicare because they believe in our health care system.

We built a diversified economy that’s based on creating family sustaining jobs, middle class jobs that helped to build the community. And we did all of that together. The issue really when we talk about CETA is what kind of country do we want to see. And now in the coming months, as the debate increases on this issue, we will need to stand together.

In your community, you need to be talking to your friends and family and neighbors. You’re going to be needing to write to local newspapers, to phone into the open line shows, let your member of parliament know how you feel about CETA and how you think the Government is being irresponsible, when you look at all the provisions of the agreement. To talk about it, to fight it, to talk about it to Municipal Councilors and School Board Trustees, to get it out in the community so that more and more Canadians can become aware of the repercussions.

We’ve built a phenomenal country together. We’ve seen over the last few years how that is starting to be frayed. And what NAFTA damaged, CETA will ruin. If you’re as concerned as I am about the future of the country and the implications and the dangers that are imposed by CETA let’s fight together so we can stop this bad agreement and build the kind of Canada we all want to see, which is a Canada where everyone counts, and no one is left behind.

ACTION ALERT: Show us the deal, give us a say! Demand transparency and public input before CETA is signed.

This link provides a sample letter that will go directly to MP's or Editor of Publications. 

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