Feb 082011

Remain centred, calm!  Then fight like hell.  CETA (it doesn’t get much worse) and now the perimeter deal.

Thanks to the Council of Canadians and the National Farmers Union (NFU) for keeping us informed.

If I say CETA do you know what I’m talking about?  Some of you do, for sure.  But ALL of us should know because of the ramifications for Canadians.  CETA is the Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement.  Maude Barlow does a nice job of explaining it below.

Terry Boehm, President of the NFU, is just back from Europe where the negotiations are taking place.  The NFU got together with people in Saskatoon tonite to explain CETA.  Terry explains it as  “not a trade agreement”, but as a “template to alter governance”.

It is an “enclosure of what Government can do.”  They “no longer act for citizens.  Their function is to provide services for corporations.”

European corporations are “interested in penetrating Canadian society down to the municipal level.”  (In CETA language,  “sub-national governments”).  All sub-national governments will be bound by CETA.   Which I take to mean, for example, that municipal by-laws on pesticide use would not stand.

When I first read about CETA, a strong and repulsive impression formed that remains in my mind.  Terry validated it.  “European corporations are interested in opening up Government procurement.”  They want access to hospitals, universities, etc.  Maude talks about this below, too.  Local suppliers cannot be favored.

There are “thresholds”.  People in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. should be aware that their Governments are in favour of reducing the thresholds “across the board” to $25,000 for CETA criterion for competition in providing goods, services and construction contracts.  The thresholds otherwise are being negotiated at $135,000 for federal level goods and services; and $5 million for construction projects.  The Western Premiers would just like to give it all away.

WHAT”S IT ALL ABOUT?   A big part of it is biotech agriculture and biotech pharma, no surprise.  The Western premiers’ strategy is to give away everything in exchange for the Europeans opening up their markets to biotech food.   We’ll give them access to Government contracts (procurement) to get them to open up to GMOs.

Terry told of how he pointed out to European Parliamentarians that Appendix 1B of CETA would nullify European GM (genetically modified) regulations.  Their response was to laugh.  “You don’t know the politics of Europe.  It ain’t going to happen.”   Europeans are too dead set against GM food.  So Canadian negotiators are selling us out completely and for nothing in return.  (Not that we want Europe to open their markets to GM food anyway.)

CETA would change intellectual property rights (patents on biotech products for example).   You don’t even want to hear this.  There are “precautionary enforcement provisions”.  “The courts are no longer a vehicle of Government.”  They would enforce intellectual property rights for ALLEGED infringement.   Translated:  in the case of alleged infringement of intellectual property rights (think Percy Schmeiser and patent on Monsanto’s GM canola),  there would be “precautionary” potential seizure of bank accounts, land, machinery, by the corporations before even going to court.  Intellectual property rights would supersede all other property rights.

In addition, any alleged person who assisted in the infringement would also be subject to the “precautionary enforcement provisions”.   There are draconian provisions.  The farmer’s crop can be destroyed before it goes to market if there is alleged infringement of patents (GM crops), also injunctions to prevent the farmer from seeding.   There are no defined levels of contamination (GM plants in a farmer’s crop) to determine infringement of a patent that may be held on GM seeds.

Terry:  “Bizarre, but with the effect that farmers will comply.  It creates a culture of fear for farmers doing what they have always done.  In the end, there is total control over the food supply.”

The patenting of drugs is changed to serve the interests of the pharma corporations.  I won’t go into that detail.

Under CETA neither Canada nor European countries could restrict the import or export of goods.  That’s as with NAFTA.  If we are running out of a resource that we are exporting to the U.S., we cannot cut back on the proportion that we send to the U.S.  So now we would have the same agreement with Europe. As the Council of Canadians and the NFU say, “It’s NAFTA on steroids.”

You may know that “Chapter 11” in NAFTA is the agreement whereby Canadian tax-payers compensate American corporations if they might suffer a loss of revenue because of our regulations.  CETA has “Chapter 11” provisions that make your hair stand on end.  “In the event of civil strife or war”  we Canadian tax-payers get to compensate European corporations for loss of profits.  Which means that if there is a strike in Canada we will pay the European corporations.

As Terry concluded, “CETA goes after the heart of our societies.”  Government is solely in service of the large transnational corporations.

A question was asked about dispute resolution mechanisms.  There would be a tribunal for that, it’s the WTO model, “completely opaque”.  Closed to citizens.

“Consistently (in CETA) it is the responsibility of Governments to compensate the corporations.  It is not about trade.”

To date, trade between Canada and Europe has been conducted under minimum tariffs (4%).   “We have always been able to market our non-hormone beef to them”.   Trade arrangements are fine, as they are.

The Harper Government has been pre-empting the provisions of CETA (slowly, under the radar, already putting the provisions into place).

March 2010 “thresholds” put in place.   Changes to copyright laws to comply with CETA.

Terry recommended the Trade Justice Network as another good place to go for information (in addition to the NFU and the C of C).

I brought home copies of a petition to the Federal Government and will collect signatures.  Please consider downloading a copy and doing the same.  It’s on the homepage at  www.nfu.ca

You heard that Harper signed the perimeter agreement with the U.S. ?   (see appended from the C of C.)

It is looking once again, but more likely this time, that a federal election is a month away.   We are from different political parties.  Most of you know that I joined the Green Party in support of Elizabeth May who I came to know in activist circles when she was the Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada.

The Green Party is grass roots.  We have 3 federal organizers for all of Canada.  Which means that everyone has to pitch in to help put a candidate in every riding.  Is there a candidate in your riding?  Click on  http://greenparty.ca/find-your-riding

Please get in touch with me if you have questions I might be able to help with.  I am running in Saskatoon-Humboldt.  If  I could just find time for campaigning it would be helpful!

Many thanks to the Council of Canadians for the appended excellent information.


online version


Harper signs new security perimeter deal without consulting Canadians or Parliament

Late Friday afternoon, Prime Minster Stephen Harper announced he had unilaterally signed a deal with the United States government that some pundits have said is larger in scope than NAFTA.

The security perimeter deal, which Harper touted as being needed to further ease trade restrictions between the two countries, states that Canadian and U.S. governments will work “together within, at, and away from the borders of our two countries” to toughen security and promote trade.

In his comments following the announcement, Prime Minister Harper said the border plan is intended to “keep out terrorists and criminals,” “simplify regulations that hinder trade,” create “consistent inspection measures,” and to have “better management of our border” but not eliminate it.

The Council of Canadians has spoken out against this deal, which was reportedly negotiated in secret for six months with involvement from business groups, but not Parliament or public interest groups. While concrete details about the deal have been sparse, many concerns have already been raised about the implications of sharing security information with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the loss of sovereignty and trade-offs made to come to this agreement, and the degree to which any of the common measures being discussed will address the so-called “thickening” of the border.

“We’ve gone down this road before – it was called the Security and Prosperity Partnership – and North Americans rejected it,” said Stuart Trew, Trade Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The Harper government must disclose what terms it is negotiating with the Americans and open it to public and parliamentary scrutiny.”

Take action!

(Links no longer valid)

Contact Prime Minister Stephen Harper today and tell him he shouldn’t sign away Canada’s sovereignty by making backroom deals without public debate or scrutiny. The security perimeter deal was signed by Prime Minster Harper without permission from the Canadian public and without approval from Parliament even though it could result in major changes to how our borders are monitored, unfair immigration policies, and the sharing of Canadians’ personal information with U.S. Homeland Security.

Go here to send your message to Prime Minister Harper today.

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Nuclear Safety Commission approves shipment of radioactive materials through the Great Lakes

On Friday afternoon the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has given its permission to Bruce Power to ship 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators from southwestern Ontario, across the Great Lakes, and then onto Sweden for recycling.

The Council of Canadians has joined Canadian and U.S. groups opposing these transports, arguing the results of a mishap would be ecologically devastating for the lakes. The Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world’s freshwater and supply one out of three Canadians and one out of seven Americans – 45 million people – with their daily water use.

“It is unconscionable the commission would approve these shipments, said Emma Lui, National Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “The Great Lakes are a vital source of water for millions. We cannot risk their further contamination.”

We need a different future for the Great Lakes. This is why the Council of Canadians, as part of a new network of Canadian, American and First Nations communities around the Great Lakes, is determined to have these lakes named a Commons, a public trust and a protected bioregion.

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Council speaks out against CETA

Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow spoke to a full auditorium in Guelph, Ontario late last month to tell people about the Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the threats it poses to democracy, public services and locally-created social and economic policies.

“It’s a very aggressive trade agreement that most people haven’t heard about,” she said at the event. “It’s a much bigger agreement than even NAFTA because it includes sub-national procurement, which means provinces, municipalities, schools, hospitals, water systems – all of the money that we spend at the lower levels of government. It’s really an agreement that will give the big service corporations in Europe (and then American because under NAFTA you can’t give to one without giving to the other) access to these contracts at the lower levels.”

CETA’s benefits were also questioned in a recent letter to the editor in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald by Council of Canadians’Atlantic Regional Organizer Angela Giles and CUPE Nova Scotia President Danny Cavanagh. Questioning Canada’s involvement in a trade deal that will limit provincial and municipal opportunities to set their own social and economic policies, they outlined the threats CETA poses to procurement, fisheries, health care, farmers, and democracy. “The EU also wants water utilities and water-treatment services included in the deal, which would put pressure on municipalities to privatize water systems and give favourable treatment to large EU-based private water firms such as Veolia and Suez. Combined with the procurement chapter, it will be impossible for Nova Scotia communities to get the most employment and environmental benefits out of water system upgrades,” they wrote.


Win! Kalahari Bushmen’s right to water recognized by court

Botswana’s Court of Appeal has quashed a ruling that denied the Kalahari Bushmen access to water on their ancestral lands. This decision is the first major test of the United Nations’ recognition of the human right to water.

In August 2010 Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow condemned the Botswana government’s failure to allow Bushmen to access water. In a media report she stated, “(T)he UN General Assembly declared that everyone, everywhere, has the right to water. But now the world witnesses one of Africa’s most prosperous countries denying its first inhabitants the right to sink a well, while promoting mining and safari camps just a few miles away. It’s hard to imagine a more cruel and inhuman way to treat people. One can only conclude Botswana’s authorities view Bushmen as less important than wildlife. Many people around the world will be horrified.”

The Bushmen, who returned to their lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve after a previous court victory, were appealing a 2010 High Court ruling that denied their right to access a well in the reserve they had used for decades. Without the well, the Bushmen are forced to make arduous journeys by foot or donkey to get water from outside the reserve and resort to collecting rainwater, melons and roots for drinking water.

“This is a major victory. It’s the first test case of our right to water resolution at the United Nations. People should not be denied the right to water – it is essential to life.” said Barlow.

To read our media release on this go here.

Council Vice-Chair attends World Social Forum

Council of Canadians Vice-Chair Leo Broderick is in Darkar, Senegal at the World Social Forum on behalf of the Council of Canadians.

The forum, which has happened yearly since 2001, is “an open meeting place where social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, to formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action.”

The World Social Forum runs from February 6-11, 2011.

Buzz about a Spring election grows louder

The political posturing continues leading up to the Conservative government’s federal budget release, which is expected in March.

The Liberal Party has indicated it will vote against the budget, and the NDP and Bloc Québécois have both placed requirements on budget spending and programs in order to earn their approval. If either party votes against the budget, the government will fall and Canadians will once again be heading to the polls.

The Council of Canadians continues to track election developments. As in past elections, we will raise key issues of concern for our members. Our positioning in the last several elections has been to focus on issues as they relate to our campaigns, and to strongly call for a fairer voting system through proportional representation.

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