Municipal governments need a say on CETA: Pass a CETA resolution in your community today

In October 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he had reached “an agreement in principle” for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). If the deal is signed as written, CETA would stop our municipalities, school boards, universities and hospitals from using public spending to support local job creation and sustainable development. We’ll be saying “bye-bye to buy local” unless we do something about it now.

The good news is this deal isn’t done and we can still fight back!

More than 50 communities, including Toronto, Lasbhurn, Victoria, Baie Comeau, Sackville, Hamilton and Red Deer, have already sent a clear message to the federal and provincial governments that “buy local” and other public spending policies, as well as municipally-delivered public services like water, should be excluded from CETA. See a map of local CETA resolutions.

Blue: Passed resolution in city/town; Yellow: Proposed resolution; Red: Passed resolution by school board or association; Purple: Seeking exemption
View the larger MAP: Take Cities out of CETA and read resolution details. Download a text/print version here.
Please help us keep the map up-to-date by sending us your local resolutions at

Our job now is to go back to these communities with the news that Harper and the provinces want to ignore these voices, and to ask our local leaders what they’re going to do about it. We also need to reach new communities that might not know about the kinds of local job creation and sustainable community development programs the Harper government has sacrificed just to finish a bad trade deal with the EU.

Technical briefing but no CETA text

The news that municipalities, school boards and most other public institutions would be bound by CETA rules was revealed more fully in a technical briefing on the “agreement in principle” that the Harper government signed with the EU on October 18, 2013. This is not the actual CETA agreement, which is still being negotiated. It is just a bullet-point outline of where some of the trade-offs happened. 

The briefing doesn’t tell us a lot. But it does suggest that municipalities would be covered by a ban on “buy local” policies that would cover most transit and energy spending. Unfortunately, this is exactly where local preferences (e.g. local content quotas) on big projects make the most sense. Even in Ontario, a 25 per cent local content law for mass transit projects has been watered down to satisfy the EU. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities made it clear in its seven principles on trade that there should be exceptions for local content quotas in strategic areas like transit.

How does CETA affect my community?

For any public institution (e.g. city councils, water utilities and school boards) not excluded from CETA, the deal will:

  • Prohibit “buy local” or “buy Canadian” preferences on contracts, or any requirement that bidders use some portion of local or Canadian goods, services or labour. This would end the use of procurement as a local economic or social development tool.
  • Prohibit using public spending to create or support a market for innovative goods and services, including green technologies, if the effect would favour Canadian producers or attract investment to Canada.
  • Prohibit spending public money in ways that support sustainability, for example through buy local food policies like the one Toronto passed to reduce emissions from food miles.

There are also risks to municipal governments in CETA’s investment rules. From leaked chapters of the CETA text over the past two years, we know that Canada will not protect local governments from costly investor-to-state lawsuits attacking local policies related to public services.

CETA will lock in the status quo for services delivered by municipalities. So any existing privatization will be locked in, but future decisions to bring privatized services back into public hands can be challenged by corporations – as well as any expansion of public services into areas where there is some private delivery.

In general, CETA (like NAFTA) will put a chill on local governments that want to do more to provide the public services their communities need. This fits into the Harper government’s continuing efforts to encourage the privatization of local water, transit and energy services.

What can we do now?

The Harper government has an “agreement in principle” with the EU, but a final deal is several months away and CETA cannot be ratified for at least a year in Canada and even longer in Europe. There is not nearly enough detail in the technical briefing on CETA, so our municipal governments need to hear from the provinces about how they will be affected by the deal, and municipalities must be able to say “no” to any part of the deal that hurts local economies.

Local governments and the public must be given a role in reviewing, revising and even rejecting parts of the EU deal. This could include the unnecessary restrictions on public spending and ban on “buy local” policies, as well as CETA’s threats to local public services.

Take action!

Take the draft resolution below to your local councillor and ask if they will champion a local call for democracy in the Canada-EU CETA negotiations.

Tools to help you in your campaign:

Sample CETA Resolution (updated November 2013)

The following updated CETA resolution builds on a 2010 resolution passed by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and more than 50 other municipalities across Canada since then. It accounts for the new information we have about the Canada-EU deal and municipal governments, and emphasizes the need for local communities to have their say in whether CETA is in the public interest or not.

WHEREAS on October 18, 2013, the Canadian government announced it had concluded an “agreement in principle” with the European Union (EU) and is only months away from signing the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA);

WHEREAS the provincial governments were involved in negotiating CETA over the past four years;

WHEREAS for the first time in Canadian history a trade deal (CETA) will bind municipalities to
international rules on how local governments spend public money despite the fact that municipalities were not principals during negotiations;

WHEREAS a technical briefing on the EU deal, tabled in the House of Commons on October 29, 2013 makes it clear that municipal governments and the wider M.U.S.H. sector (municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals) will be largely covered by new international procurement rules that significantly reduce the freedom of these public bodies to use public spending as a tool for economic development, job creation, environmental protection and support for local farmers and small businesses;

WHEREAS this same technical briefing suggests that CETA procurement rules will cover “75-80 percent of procurement by major energy entities across Canada, with commitments by all provinces and territories with major energy-production and distribution capacity,” as well as “coverage of mass transit by all provinces and territories,” with some small and undefined exceptions for Ontario and Quebec;

WHEREAS coverage of transit and energy procurement appears to violate the fourth of seven principles for free and fair trade from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which states that: “There may be industries of strategic significance to a particular region, such as transit, or projects where considerations of quality, public benefit, environmental protection or business ethics means that a local government may wish to implement minimum Canadian-content levels;”

WHEREAS [the Municipality] already has an open and fair procurement policy, and it is not the international norm for municipal governments, or even most WTO member countries, to be covered by procurement agreements such as the one proposed in the CETA; and

WHEREAS other aspects of CETA related to municipally-delivered services and investment rules that could result in corporate lawsuits against municipal policy have not been disclosed in the federal government’s technical briefing on the EU deal;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Council requests:

  • The [Province/Territory] issue a clear, permanent exemption for [the Municipality] from the Canada-EU CETA, and that it otherwise protect the powers of municipalities, hospitals, school boards, utilities, universities and other sub-federal agencies to use public procurement as one of many tools to create local jobs, protect the environment, and support local development; and that
  • The [Province/Territory] disclose to municipalities and the public its procurement, services and investment offers to the EU, explain the impacts CETA would have on municipal governance, and give M.U.S.H sector bodies the freedom to decide whether or not they will be bound by CETA provisions; and that
  • This resolution be sent to the provincial and federal government ministers responsible for CETA negotiations, the [Provincial/Territorial Municipal Association], the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the [Provincial/Territorial Hospital Association], the [Provincial/Territorial University Association] and the [Provincial/Territorial School Board Association], federations of labour, labour councils and unions representing workers in municipalities, provinces and territories  and any other relevant bodies for consideration and circulation.

Download the draft resolution in PDF here.