A major trade agreement may soon be signed that will have a dramatic effect on the way our public institutions do business.
Forty municipalities, including Toronto, Montreal, and Victoria, have requested exemption from the Canadian European Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), currently being hammered out between our federal government and the European Union. These municipalities are upset because under CETA they will not be allowed to practice any “Buy Canadian” or “Hire Canadian” policies.
Shrouded in secrecy…
As yet, not a single municipality in Newfoundland and Labrador has requested similar exemption. We have been slow in this province to react to the risks this treaty could pose, to local and provincial sovereignty, to public services, and to the environment. This may be because negotiations of the treaty have been cloaked in excessive secrecy. However, thanks to leaked documents, CETA, which is expected to be signed this fall, has quickly become the focus of citizen advocacy groups across Canada.
One Newfoundland and Labrador based group, Citizens Against CETA, is about to kick off a lobbying campaign targeting local politicians, business persons, the media, and the public at large. Marilyn Reid, a spokesperson for the group, says that CETA is barely about trade at all. Instead, it’s a way of further deregulating and privatizing the Canadian economy with restrictive rules that will seriously limit national, provincial, and municipal decision making.
“Whether one is for or against free trade agreements, it is difficult to understand this kind of wholesale giveaway on the part of our government,” says Ms. Reid. “The European Union has made it very clear that they reserve the right to protect public services and local autonomy. Why is our federal government not doing the same thing? And why are provincial governments acquiescing to this?”
What CETA will mean for you…
Of particular concern for rural Newfoundland and Labrador is how this could change the rules for foreign fishing operations. The far-reaching treaty will also impact intellectual property and patent rights, internet privacy and security, farming and food sovereignty, and health care. The Citizens Against CETA group have put together an information video (see below) to get the word out about these and other concerns.
NL politicians need to get engaged…
When asked what primary message Citizens Against CETA would like to covey to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Ms. Reid was emphatic:
“Citizens of the province need to understand that the effects of this treaty will not be immediately apparent. It could well take a number of years for us to feel the impact of CETA on our communities. But by that time it will be too late. We must get informed and act now to insist that our elected officials engage in a full, comprehensive and unrushed debate about CETA, both in the House of Assembly and with citizens. So far we’re a long way away from that happening. That needs to change.”
Jon Parsons is a PhD student at Memorial University interested in Newfoundland and Labrador culture, society, and politics. Catch up with him on twitter @jwpnfld