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The Council calls for public hearings on C-30, the CETA Implementation Act

Trade minister Chrystia Freeland in the House of Commons.

The Trudeau government is moving forward with the implementation legislation necessary to ratify the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in the Parliament of Canada.

Just prior to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attending the CETA signing ceremony in Brussels on October 30, CBC reported, “Canadian MPs will vote [but] the responsibility for ratifying treaties rests with the executive: Trudeau’s cabinet. Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to introduce an implementation bill before the end of the year to change laws affected by the agreement.”

Then on November 3, iPolitics reported, “NDP Member of Parliament Tracey Ramsey is alleging the Liberals broke government policy by tabling CETA in the House of Commons a day after signing the international free trade agreement — instead of waiting 21 sitting days, as stipulated by a government policy on tabling treaties. Ramsey, the New Democrats’ international trade critic, said an act to implement CETA appeared on the government’s notice paper on Oct. 28 — two days before Canada’s prime minister even signed the agreement in Brussels.”

Bill C-30, “An Act to implement the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and its Member States and to provide for certain other measures”, is now in First Reading in the  House of Commons.

The Council of Canadians believes that C-30 should be subject to public hearings by the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade.

We argue that:

1- Prime Minister Trudeau has stated, “The government has an obligation to be open and honest about the negotiation process, and immediately share all the details of any agreement. Canadians deserve to know what impacts this agreement will have on different industries across our country.” He was speaking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but the same should hold true for CETA.

2- After the Brexit vote, CBC reported, “CETA was based on tradeoffs and calculations that included British consumers and businesses — compromises that were sometimes painful and prolonged”, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association suggested the deal should be “re-assessed” given the United Kingdom represents about 10 per cent of the beef sector Canada was hoping to gain with the deal, and even former Conservative trade minister Ed Fast said only a detailed study could determine if Britain’s absence from CETA undermines the concessions Canada made to secure the deal.

3- There is time between now and the European Parliament’s vote on CETA (expected sometime in December or on February 14, 2017) and the provisional application of the deal to hold public hearings on CETA. And given the ratification of CETA in the 38 national and regional parliaments within the European Union could take 2 to 5 years, there is no need to rush the passage of C-30.

4- It would be prudent for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to conduct an independent analysis of CETA with respect to a) the implications of the United Kingdom not being party to the deal, b) the economic impacts of increased European dairy imports into Canada (the previous Harper government had promised a $4.3 billion compensation package over 10 years for farmers hit by CETA and TPP, and c) the impact of CETA’s patent provisions given it has been estimated they would add add up to $1.65 billion a year to the costs of pharmaceutical drugs in this country.

5- CETA should be scrutinized in relation to Canada’s commitments under international law in the COP21 climate agreement. A study of the Investment Court System ‘reform’ in CETA found that it would still allow for investor-state challenges such as TransCanada’s US$15 billion North American Free Trade Agreement challenge against the United States over US president Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL 830,000 barrel per day tar sands pipeline. ‘Trade deals’ should not be used to back damaging extractive projects.

And because CETA crosses into provincial jurisdictions (including municipal procurement, for example), provincial implementing legislation will also be needed to ratify CETA in Canada. As such, we call on all provincial and territorial governments to hold full public consultations on the impact of the CETA.

For more on our CETA campaign, please click here.