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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Presentation to London City Council re CETA

Our resolution is scheduled to be heard by the Finance and Administration Standing Committee of City Council this Wednesday morning. The meeting begins at 10 a.m., and our resolution is second on the agenda. You are welcome to come, but you would need to be there no later than minutes after 10.

To: Mayor Joe Fontana
and London City Councillors
From: George Crowell on behalf of
the London Chapter of the Council of Canadians

Members of the Council of Canadians (CoC) across this nation are deeply concerned about the potential impact of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that is being negotiated, largely in secret, between Canada's federal and provincial governments and the European Union. There has been little public discussion or understanding of this issue, which apparently will have far-reaching, damaging impact on municipalities and local municipal governance. There has been little coverage of this issue, with only parliamentary reports from last year (Sept 3rd, 2010) and leaked copies of the draft negotiating texts, which can be found on the Trade Justice Network website.

We can expect that the text of CETA, like earlier trade agreements, including NAFTA, will be incomprehensible to most people. Their sheer volume, to say nothing of their highly technical language, renders them inaccessible to laypeople. Fortunately, however, through the Trade Justice Network we have access to trade experts who are concerned about public welfare. Their website is a rich source of information on CETA with both clear, simple summaries, and in-depth analysis. We draw on this source and on the Council of Canadians' website for our comments here, and for the resolution below which we ask you to consider, and hope you will pass.

This trade document will impact municipalities in new ways, well beyond its predecessor trade agreements. Especially affected will be (1) procurement, (2) the provision of municipal services—including water, sewage, garbage, public transit, energy, public housing, and much more—and (3) regulation of businesses at the local level. European Union corporations would have full bidding rights on municipal procurement contracts for goods and services, and, as a result, U.S. corporations will also. Foreign corporations are expected to have new powers to challenge contract decisions before trade panels whose decisions would be binding, and municipalities would be subject to heavy financial penalties for trade rule violations, without access to Canadian law courts for relief. Even municipal measures designed to promote public health and safety, and to protect the environment would be subject to challenge under trade rules favouring corporate profits. Municipalities could be held responsible for costs incurred by federal or provincial governments in these investor challenges—unlike other trade agreements where the Federal Government has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle disputes.

Once the terms of this Trade Agreement are in place, it will be virtually impossible to reinstate the abandoned rights of governments.

We are aware that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) have been working to protect the interests of municipalities from the potential damaging impact of CETA through a set of seven guiding principles. But we are uneasy to see that discussion of these principles on the FCM website, along with other comments regarding CETA on that website, as well as on the AMO website, reflect an inclination not to criticize CETA, but to adjust to its inevitability. Missing is any explicit recognition of the fact that the fundamental purpose of the whole family of recent trade agreements beginning with the 1989 Canada-U.S. FTA, and now including CETA, is to reduce the power of governments at all levels to regulate corporations. The basic reason for pursuing these trade agreements has consistently been to provide advantages to profit-seeking corporations by limiting the ability of governments to act in the public interest.

The Council of Canadians is not opposed to trade or to profit-making businesses as such. We favour open, fair, and transparent trade processes, and thriving businesses judiciously regulated through our democratic institutions to serve the public interest.

We are aware of the letter sent in August 2011 by the Federal Minister of International Trade, the Honourable Ed Fast, to the president of FCM praising FCM for its cooperation with the CETA negotiation process, assuring that municipal concerns will be honoured, and stating that CETA will create jobs and prosperity for Canadians. In our view, these assurances should be approached with scepticism. There is no doubt that CETA would provide benefits for some Canadian corporations, especially those that have global reach enabling them to compete for procurement in Europe. But small local businesses that provide excellent service at the local level would likely be squeezed out by large foreign corporations, undermining the promising new “buy local” movement. Trade agreements have been consistently promoted with glowing promises of jobs for Canadians, but there has been a record of many jobs lost here, especially as a result of FTA and NAFTA. Perhaps foreign corporations winning procurement contracts in Canada might hire Canadians, but likely with lower wages and benefits.

We ask you to give serious consideration to the potential disadvantages of CETA which far exceed those mentioned here, as you can see from viewing the Trade Justice Network website. This issue is becoming increasingly urgent, since the planned final round of negotiations regarding CETA is scheduled for October 17-21 in Ottawa. We offer the following resolution which we hope you will pass. Similar resolutions have been passed by some twenty other municipalities in Canada.


WHEREAS the government of Canada and the European Union have been negotiating a trade agreement known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (the “CETA”); and

WHEREAS the European Union and European corporations are insisting on full access to procurement by sub-national governments - including municipalities, school boards, universities, hospitals and other provincial agencies - which could significantly reduce or eliminate the right to specify local priorities and/or standards when public money is invested in goods, services or capital projects; and

WHEREAS Canadian municipalities have expressed growing concerns with trade agreements and their potential impact on municipal programs and services and local autonomy; and

WHEREAS under CETA, unfettered access to Canadian municipal procurement by European corporations may encourage privatization and reduce economic development options for local communities; and

WHEREAS under CETA, foreign corporations that have won contracts may bring in their own labour force and may not be required to hire Canadian labour and/or management; and

WHEREAS the government of Ontario has been actively involved in negotiating CETA with the European Union:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of London ask the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to request:

The Province of Ontario to provide a briefing on the scope and content of trade negotiations with the European Union;

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities to urge the Government of Canada not to provide the European Union access to sub national government procurement; and

The Government of Ontario, along with the other provincial and territorial governments to negotiate a clear, permanent exemption for local governments from CETA.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Film: "The Economics of Happiness"

7:00 p.m. Thursday Sept. 29, 2011 at Wolf Performance Hall, London Public Library:

Who's Running in Your Riding?

September Newsletter

Breakfast with Maude Barlow

A special invitation to London Chapter Members to join us for an informal breakfast get together with our Council of Canadians Chair.
Friday October 7, 7AM at Windermere Manor Café,
$15 Students - $20 Members
... Contact Events Director:
Louise Hollingsworth (519) 679-0795
Windermere Manor – 200 Collip Circle (519) 858-1391
Located in UWO Research Park at Western Road & Windermere Rd.
From Richmond Street North go west on Windermere Road
Go past Western Road and turn right (north) at the Park entrance
At stop sign turn left.
At next stop sign turn right and follow road around to left to top of the hill and the parking lot.

Maude Barlow to Speak at Kings College!

Maude Barlow will be speaking on "Water Privatization" at 7 pm on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at Kings University College in Room 105 of Labatt Hall. Click on the poster below for more information.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review: "Captivity" by James Loney

Captivity: 118 Days in Iraq and the Struggle for a World Without War. by James Loney. Knopf Canada. ISBN: 978-0-307-39927-4 (0-307-39927-3)

When the invasion of Iraq began in 2003, hardly anyone had heard of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization that believes that Christians should apply the same discipline and self sacrifice to peacemaking that armies devote to war. The group hit the front pages when James Loney and three other members of CPT were abducted in November 2005, and held in captivity for 118 days. This book is James' story of that time.

James had been to Iraq with CPT twice before, and this time he was leading a delegation. A CPT delegation consists of people who want first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground and how CPT's work is done. With James on the day of the kidnapping were Harmeet Singh Sooden, 33, a Canadian Sikh currently living in New Zealand, Norman Kember, 75, a retired British biophysisist, and Tom Fox, a 52 year old American Quaker, retired from the Marine Corps band. They were abducted after a meeting with a local organization, and were taken to a house where they were kept under guard by four Iraqi freedom fighters. For most of the 118 days that followed, they were handcuffed to each other, loosely blindfolded, hungry and filthy, and sometimes ill.

As soon as they learned of the captivity, CPT went into full non-violent response mode. The last thing they wanted was an armed rescue. There were prayer vigils around the world, appeals through the press and government. With several members of CPT living around London, there were vigils at Valleyview Mennonite Church, and in public.

While the main feature of the captivity for James was excruciating boredom, this book is anything but, as he describes the chronology of happenings and feelings over those 118 days. He felt a constant conflict between wanting to feel compassion and love for his captors, and needing to resist them in any way possible. Communication was very difficult, with only a few words of Arabic on the one hand, and a few of English on the other. One day a captor the CPTers referred to as Junior explained that he wanted to be a suicide bomber. James was appalled, and asked himself,

How do I tell him life is sacred, his body a wondrous chariot, that he must not do this, foreclose every possibility of good in an irrevocable act of hate? . . . Human touch. That's how to do it. My heart starts pounding. It's ridiculous, crazy, insane. I immediately sweep the idea out of my mind. One does not massage one's captor.

But Junior was in constant pain from tight muscles, and he did massage him, almost daily from then on.

Adding to the effect of the boredom, were the regular promises from the captors that release was imminent; that the governments of Canada and Great Britain were negotiating and promising large sums of money for the captives. The threat to Tom Fox was that the United States would not negotiate at all, and all were aware that he was in great danger, and that the Canadians were the most likely to be freed. In fact, Tom was taken away on Feb. 12 and eventually the men realized that he must be dead.

In the new year the captives finally established a daily routine. They were unshackled in the morning to use the filthy bathroom, and then to do an exercise routine. After that they were shackled and forced to sit in plastic chairs all day, They practiced a daily check-in with each other, sharing feelings and physical problems. Bible study had to be done by memory. Eventually they were given writing materials,a real blessing for James. He realized that the Psalms are for times of anguish and terror, and wrote a psalm for himself.

My God, my God,
where have you gone, where can you be?
I speak but you do not hear me,
I call but you do not see.

My heart breaks open with crying,
weeping and gnashing of teeth are its son.
My spirit rolls in ash,
anguish has broken my soul. .

Throughout James agonized over the conflict among the four men, very little of which was articulated between them; it's really hard to deal with conflict when you are chained together. He described the rages he felt, sometimes at the smallest personal habits of another and then the various ways he dealt with that rage.

Eventually, after 118 days, James and Norman and Harmeet were freed by a unit of crack soldiers with no shots fired. It is the method they, as peacemakers, did not want, but paradoxically, James is immensely grateful to the soldiers and to everyone else who worked so long and hard to find them and to free them.

Read this book. It will give you the opportunity to spend time with a wise man with a generous heart and a lovely way with words.

James Loney will read from his book on Wednesday September 21, 7 PM at the London Public Library, Wolf Performance Hall for the International Peace Day. Admission is free, signed copies of Captivity will be available for purchase.

Elizabeth (Beth) Guthrie is a member of People for Peace in London. Before moving to Toronto on retirement, she was a frequent contributor to the letter pages of the London Free Press.

All Candidates Meetings for 2011 Ontario Provincial Election

Check here for announcements of all candidates meetings as we find out about them!

3:30 p.m. Thursday September 8, 2011 at Kiwanis Seniors Centre, 78 Riverside Dr. "The Council for London Seniors hosts London's first all-candidates meeting of the Ontario election campaign. Come out and hear where candidates from all parties stand on the issues that are important to you.

All candidate's meeting/ healthcare debate, London North Center Riding

Tuesday, September 27 · 7:00pm - 10:00pm
AB Lucas Secondary School 656 Tennent Ave London Ontario
Best to get there an hour early. Very limited parking.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Monthly Meeting: Tuesday September 13, 2011

Next meeting of the London Chapter of the CoC
Tuesday September 13, 2011

7:00-9:00 p.m.
Carson Branch, London Public Library
465 Quebec St. (at Dufferin)

Agenda: Stay tuned

Minutes of last open meeting on June 14, 2011: click here.

Note that you should be able to attend the health care rally in Toronto and get back to London in time for this meeting.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Health Care Rally in Toronto

"Rally to Safeguard Public Health Care for People Not for Profit" Tuesday Sept. 13, 2011, 12 noon, Queen's Park, Toronto:

CAW Local 27 is graciously offering seats and a meal on the bus to all activists interested in attending the Toronto Health Care rally on September 13th. Call 519-455-3430 to reserve a seat. A free meal will be served on the bus, which leaves London at 8:45am.