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Council of Canadians says federal government’s “consultation” on the TPP is “a smoke screen”

Government of Canada website report on yesterday’s ‘consultation’ on the TPP in Guelph.

The Council of Canadians says the federal government’s provides little advance notice about its ‘consultations’ on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and that undermines the public’s ability to participate in them.

The Tyee reports, “Sujata Dey of the Council of Canadians said she believes the federal government isn’t interested in hearing the public’s concerns about the 12-nation corporate rights pact, despite commitments to consult with Canadians. ‘This idea of this open consultation seems to be a bit of a smoke screen’, Dey said. ‘It doesn’t seem like the Liberals are living up to their promises.’ …Dey said the council and similar organizations that are concerned about the TPP’s impact on equality and democracy have not been informed of the time and location of meetings until fewer than 24 hours before they take place.”

The article adds, “Dey’s concern is that the government has not amply publicized recent public meetings, leaving little time for someone to attend or, if they were permitted, to prepare to present their concerns to government officials. She said the short notice has happened in Halifax, Winnipeg, and yesterday, St. Johns. ‘I’m expecting a press release tonight telling me where they are tomorrow’, she said. Dey said she suspects that industry and other groups in favour of the deal are receiving earlier notice about the events. ‘I know industry reps are important, but so are citizens’, she said.”

It also highlights, “The latest case happened with a stakeholder meeting held in Guelph, Ontario on Thursday, for which the council only received 20-hours advance notice, she said.” Council of Canadians Guelph chapter activist Lin Grist tells us that heard about that consultation the night before and then through their MP that the start time had been rescheduled. They were told only two people from their chapter could attend, but when they arrived three of them were allowed in. Grist also tells us that after the event a couple of the participants (chief executive officers of farm businesses) told them they had been invited to the meeting a couple days earlier.

The Tyee then notes, “Minister Freeland rejects the claim that the government isn’t holding fair and meaningful consultation meetings. In an emailed statement, she said the consultation meetings have included a variety of groups including labour, students, and those in the agricultural industry. …The statement did not reveal whether industry groups were being given more advanced and direct notice of meetings than the public. The Tyee sent requests to interview two industry groups that were identified as having participated in the consultations, but did not hear back by deadline.”

Our concerns shouldn’t be news to the federal government.

On Jan. 22, the Regina Leader-Post reported, “Unimpressed is the local branch of the left-leaning Council of Canadians, whose chair, Jim Elliott, said he didn’t know about [the Jan. 21] consultation until 10:30 p.m. Wednesday [Jan. 20]. He said this ‘corporate rights-protection agreement’ will mean higher prices for drugs, prevent a climate-change action strategy and tie the hands of municipalities and provinces in developing policy and under the TPP’s investor-state dispute-settlement provision.” That same week our PEI chapter had tried to attend an ‘information session’ on the TPP but were told by a provincial ministry that it “is not a public meeting, it is by invitation only”.

The Council of Canadians continues to demand that the Liberals hold a genuine consultation on the TPP. That would include public hearings in each province and territory across Canada as well as separate and meaningful consultation with Indigenous communities and First Nations. To add your voice to that demand please go to our Let’s have real public consultations on the TPP! action alert. More than 6,000 people have already done so, but clearly we need more people pressing the government on this given their lack of concern for the short-notice and non-inclusivity of their current ‘consultations’.

We are also asking that, as limited as it may be, you send your comments to the government through TPP-PTP.consultations@international.gc.ca. We encourage this, but caution, as iPolitics writer BJ Siekierski has commented, “The Global Affairs Canada website provides an email address and invites comments from the public on TPP, but doesn’t give a deadline or say what it plans to do with them.” In response to our written inquiry on this, Global Affairs Canada says, “The Government has received over 1000 emails expressing various views. …Please rest assured that your concerns are being taken into serious consideration as the Government assesses Canada’s participation in the TPP.”

For more on our campaign to stop the TPP, please click here.