Ottawa – The federal government has denied an access to information request from the Council of Canadians for the working text of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The grassroots public advocacy organization is accusing the Conservative government of unnecessarily depriving Canadians of the information they need to pass judgement on CETA, and of any opportunity to alter the deal before it is signed.
“It’s a new year, but we’re seeing the same old secrecy from the Harper government. How is anyone expected to say yes or no to this EU deal if Ottawa is not prepared to release it publicly before CETA is signed, sealed and delivered?” asks Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The Prime Minister is misleading Canadians by claiming the CETA negotiations are the most transparent in Canadian history. A fully redacted copy of the text would be more transparent than this.”
Support for CETA… But not at any cost
In November, the Council of Canadians commissioned an Environics poll that asked how people felt about some of CETA’s more controversial aspects. The poll found that while support was high in general for a Canada-EU deal (73%), more than three quarters (77%) of Canadians think municipal governments should retain the right to prefer Canadian or local firms when spending public money; 65% are opposed to extending patents on brand name drugs; and 54% oppose giving EU firms NAFTA-like rights to sue Canada through investor-to-state arbitration. These and other findings are summarized in a new report called “Trade with Europe… But not at any cost.”
“CETA is not just a trade deal. It will change our pharmaceutical policies, our Internet policies, the way municipal governments spend public money, the kinds of public interest policies and regulations we can make, and all without a real debate federally or in the provinces,” says Trew. “No one should be asked to trust the Harper government that this deal is good for them, and our poll results suggest they don’t.”
Election risks from CETA secrecy
Importantly, a huge majority (80%) believe “the federal government should have to hold public hearings across Canada on the Canada-Europe trade deal before it can sign and ratify the deal.” However, the federal government has said it has no intention of doing this at the moment. Instead, the EU deal is expected to be published only after it has been signed.
“It is not OK to negotiate sweeping corporate rights deals like CETA behind closed doors and then to deny the public or parliament the opportunity to change anything about them before the deals are signed and passed into law,” says Trew. “If the government is so proud of this deal they should gladly present it to Canadians for their approval before signing. Otherwise, the Conservatives could find CETA backfiring for them at election time.”
To see the denied access to information request, click here.
To read the Council of Canadians’ new report, “Trade with Europe… But not at any cost,” click here.