In an editorial today, the Toronto Star writes: “It is becoming increasingly apparent that the United States Congress has no intention of backing down on the ‘Buy America’ strings attached to its stimulus funding. And the Obama administration has neither the clout nor the will to push Congress.”
More than this, local purchasing conditions are becoming more popular in the United States, writes the Star. And because subnational procurement is not included in NAFTA (for good reasons) Canada cannot legally challenge these policies.
“What’s the solution for Canada?” asks the Star editorial.
Instead of supporting Harper’s procurement proposal to the Obama administration, which could permanently restrict how cities and provinces spend public money (i.e. banning ‘buy local’ policies forever), the editorial supports Buy Canadian conditions on government infrastructure money!
“The provinces and municipalities could start discriminating in favour of Canadian goods on their own. Indeed, Ontario has already done that in its Green Energy Act. But beyond Ontario, Canada’s manufacturing heartland, there is little incentive for the provinces to take this step.
“What’s needed is a federal Buy Canada Act that attaches strings to the money Ottawa transfers to provinces and municipalities for infrastructure projects… The New Democrats have called for such legislation. But the Conservative government is adamantly opposed to the idea, and the opposition Liberals are siding with the government on this point.”
Two weeks ago, Council of Canadians board member Steven Shrybman, Trade Campaigner Stuart Trew, and CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan met with the Toronto Star editorial board to advocate for a Buy Canadian policy because it’s the right thing to do and because there is nothing Canadian companies can gain from the Harper deal now being negotiated.
On September 17, 2009, the Council of Canadians issued a press release supporting the NDP’s proposed Made In Canada Procurement Act as a “welcome alternative to secretly negotiating new procurement agreements with the U.S. and Europe that threaten local and democratic solutions to the economic crisis.”
WRITE TODAY TO THE TORONTO STAR IN SUPPORT OF ‘BUY CANADIAN’
The Toronto Star editorial is the first major media endorsement of a policy whose time has come in Canada. We need to get letters to the editor TODAY to show that this idea has public support, too. Write to the Star now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOME POINTS YOU COULD MAKE:
– The deal now being discussed in Washington could prevent Canadian provincial and municipal governments from choosing local goods or suppliers and from using government purchasing as a policy tool, while leaving Buy American policies in place.
– Obama wants Canadian provinces to sign the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement. But local governments in the United States, including all the major cities (where much of the stimulus infrastructure spending will be disbursed), are not bound by U.S. commitments under the WTO. So Canada has offered to cover purchasing in all Canadian municipalities with populations over 50,000 without getting any guaranteed access to U.S. markets in return!
– Toronto’s new subway cars are being manufactured in northern Ontario for a reason – because it fosters hundreds of high-skilled, well-paid jobs. Why give up the right to choose to create local jobs when spending public money?
– Buy American policies have existed in various forms in the United States for 75 years. Obama is not going to give them up so Canada needs to look for better solutions for Canadian companies.
– “Buy Local” policies are increasingly popular around the world because they foster local economies, and re-localize production and farming for the sake of protecting the environment. The Harper government should be supporting these initiatives with Buy Canadian conditions on infrastructure spending rather than bargaining them away with Washington.
For more information, and to help you write your letter, see Scott Sinclair’s report ‘The Buy American Sell-out’ for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/~ASSETS/DOCUMENT/National_Office_Pubs/2009/Buy_American_SellOut.pdf.
The French translation of Scott’s paper, which was supported by the Council of Canadians, is here: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/~ASSETS/DOCUMENT/National_Office_Pubs/2009/Buy_American_SellOut_French.pdf.
To read our September 17 press release, ‘Try Buy Canadian, don’t bash Buy American,’ click here: http://canadians.org/media/trade/2009/17-Sept-09.html.
And please watch Maude Barlow discuss this issue on CHCH news: http://canadians.org/tradeblog/?p=536.
Thanks and good luck with the letters!
Written by Stuart Trew, Trade Campaigner for the Council of Canadians