Skip to content

Council campaigner Dey tells Senate trade committee not to rush CETA approval

Montreal-based Council of Canadians trade campaigner Sujata Dey presented to the Senate foreign affairs and trade committee yesterday afternoon.

That Senate committee is examining 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“.

Following three days of debate, the House of Commons passed Bill C-30 at Third Reading on February 14. It then went to the Senate on March 7. The provisional application of CETA – which is scheduled to begin on July 1 – can only begin after the Senate passes C-30 and the federal cabinet formally ratifies the deal.

Among the key points raised by Dey:

  • “We agree with the recommendations of this committee that stakeholders should be in the process from the beginning.”

  • “Our experience in Europe tells us that rushing this is a bad idea.  For it is far from a done deal, and likely to come undone during the 38- or 36 EU state ratifications left .  Latvia and Croatia already having ratified.  If you look at the recent French elections, most of the presidential candidates had pronounced against CETA.”

  • “Many Canadians and Europeans are concerned that CETA is based on a blueprint for trade which gives incredible rights to corporations: protections on investments, patents, public services, regulatory harmonization, with nothing for the environment and for other stakeholders.”

  • “The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that trade deficits with the EU in CETA would increase, and the deal would have marginal benefits—a far cry from the promised 80,000 jobs to be created and 1000s of dollars in one’s pockets.”

  • “The way forward in CETA, is to take the time, because the likelihood is that it is not over— to do a trade agreement very different from the one that we’ve been copying and pasting for the last 30 years.”

Dey presented alongside our allies Larry Brown (National Union of Public and General Employees), Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) and Archana Rampure (Canadian Union of Public Employees).

While the Senate is not known for blocking government legislation, an interesting situation has emerged given then-Opposition leader Justin Trudeau kicked all 32 Liberal Senators out of the Liberal caucus in January 2014 in a self-described “bold” move amid the Senate expenses scandal and calls for Senate reform.

In January, the Vancouver Sun reported, “As a result, 42 of the 102 members (there are three vacancies) are listed as ‘non-affiliated’, and another 20 identify themselves as Liberals even though Trudeau banished [them]. That independence from party discipline has resulted in apparent growing assertiveness. The Senate last year temporarily blocked the government’s assisted death bill, and more recently forced Finance Minister Bill Morneau to remove a consumer-protection component of his budget-implementation bill.” Furthermore, Conservative senators, along with some Liberals and Independents, just voted against Bill C-4, a Liberal bill to repeal Harper’s C-377 and C-525 legislation.

Gordon Gibson, who has written about the Senate for decades, says of this political moment, “This is a constitutional crisis waiting to happen.”

It remains to be seen if the Senate’s approval of the implementation legislation for CETA will be further caught up in this and delay the provisional application of the deal beyond the target date of July 1.