Calgary –The Harper government’s 18-minister, cross-Canada tour to promote the Canada-EU free trade deal should be rebranded the “In-and-Out Scandal: Part 2,” says the Council of Canadians, which challenges Conservative ministers to actually engage with Canadians on the supposed benefits and possible risks of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
“Speaking at Canadians isn’t the same as speaking with them,” says Ted Woynillowicz, Calgary organizer with the Council of Canadians, a grassroots social justice organization, commenting on the whirlwind CETA tour today. “If the Harper government really wanted to meet with workers, he would have picked a more convenient time than 9 or 10 a.m. on a Friday. We dare these ministers to come back to the province to actually meet with the public and take tough questions about CETA. We’d be pleased to volunteer to organize town halls.”
The Council of Canadians is one of a growing number of environmental, cultural farmers, student, Indigenous and labour organizations under the umbrella of the Trade Justice Network that oppose CETA for the negative impact its procurement, intellectual property and investment rules will have on local democracy, environmental measures, public services and other important policies that corporations want to weaken in order to increase profits.
Municipal governments have been outspoken about the lack of transparency in the CETA negotiations. Nearly 60 cities, towns and school boards have called for more information on the negotiations and a say in the outcome. At least 33 have asked to be excluded from CETA altogether to protect their democratic rights to set social policy and spending priorities without fear of corporate challenges.
“The federal government’s claims that CETA will create significant new wealth and jobs in Canada are exaggerated,” says Woynillowicz. “The European market is already by and large open to Canadian exports with the exception of bans on genetically modified crops, and the EU procurement market is open also. There is no basis in fact for statements that the agreement will create 80,000 jobs and put $1,000 in every family’s pocket, as Trade Minister Ed Fast repeats at every opportunity.”
The Council of Canadians points out that since NAFTA was signed, Canada has lost at least 500,000 manufacturing jobs while average incomes have stagnated, according to Statistics Canada. There are compelling studies showing Canada’s trade deficit will increase under CETA, leading to job losses.
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QUESTIONS FOR MEDIA
Why does Harper keep saying CETA will create 80,000 jobs when there is no factual basis for this in any of the reports that have been written? How can Harper square that number with the reality, acknowledged in the federal-EU assessment, that Canada’s trade deficit will grow under CETA? (This is where Jim Stanford bases his 23,000 to 150,000 job loss stat — on the extent to which imports will outpace exports and reduce employment as a result.)
What do the Conservative ministers say about cities that want to be excluded from the deal because of the unreasonable procurement rules that most global cities have avoided. This is purely an EU demand so why is Harper gambling with cities?
Why would Harper contemplate intellectual property rule changes in a trade deal when they could increase the cost of drugs by $3 billion? Why won’t he listen to his Heritage Committee which recommended that copyright issues not even be broached in a trade negotiation (CETA) because they are too controversial and must be dealt with openly and democratically by legislators?
Why is the EU protecting its municipally delivered services including water but Canada is not? We’ve seen the initial offers from both sides and the Europeans want to protect the right of cities to expand or create new municipal services where Harper and the provinces will only protect existing serviced (new or expanded transit, recycling or water monopolies would be vulnerable to trade and investment challenges in Canada under CETA).