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Friday, June 28, 2013

Roberta Cory's letter to the editor of the London Free Press re CETA


On June 27, 2013 the London Free Press published the results of a poll (Canadians unaware of trade talks: Poll) about citizens' perceptions of the Canadian/ European Union trade deal Harper is trying to complete. The Harper government has been secretive about the contents of this "deal" and has avoided any public discussion of possible negatives to local communities if it is signed. Our own elected representatives, when asked about the details, have admitted that they are as much in the dark as we are. The Harper government is clearly trying to circumvent the democratic process and to muddy the waters to prevent any transparency in this negotiation. 

What we do know is this:  it is the first time that a Canadian Trade Agreement will operate at a local level. It means the unprecedented opening up to foreign investors of our essential public services such as water.  It includes the controversial investor-state dispute settlement clause, which, in everyday language, means that a foreign corporation has the right to make a profit and the right to sue a municipality if any local by-laws designed to protect our quality of life cut into their anticipated profit.  This would weaken or over ride any environmental laws now in place and allow foreign owned corporations to underbid local businesses for food contracts, labour, equipment, and services. 

Do Canadians know that in Europe the media carry up to date information about the progress of the trade negotiations?  Europeans know what the EU is demanding and what Canada is giving up. Much of the information that we citizens get in Canada came from European sources and not from our own government. If we do get a bit of information it is likely to be about cheese or beef. We are not told that Harper is willing to extend patents on pharmaceuticals which will mean fewer generic drugs and escalating drug costs to consumers. 

Trade Agreements seem remote to most citizens. The language of such agreements is off putting. Many Canadians trust their MPs and MPPs to handle this sort of thing for them. They trust that their government has their best interests in mind. The Canada/EU Trade Agreement has only the interests of international corporations in mind. It is not something remote, it is very personal. It is about our neighbourhood and our town. We need to wake up and act now. 

Roberta Cory