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Council of Canadians wants real change from the Trudeau government

Justin Trudeau photo by Adam Scott

The morning after the Oct. 19th federal election, we wrote, “We should rightly celebrate the defeat of Stephen Harper, a significantly increased voter turnout, and an election apparently relatively free of the voter suppression evident in the last federal election, but we will have to campaign even harder now to ensure that the 70 per cent of Canadians who said ‘it was the time for change’ in Ottawa this election, get the change they deserve.” We stated at that time that we were prepared to push the new Liberal government on key campaign areas. Over the past ten days we have begun to do just that:

Trudeau must hold public hearings on Trans-Pacific Partnership (Oct. 28)

Given the wide-ranging implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (on democracy, dairy farmers, life-saving medicines, food safety, auto workers) and that it was concluded so late in the Harper government’s mandate (in fact during the election), we have called for public hearings to be held across the country. We believe a national consultation could be coordinated with and in all the provinces. We also believe that the integrity of these hearings would benefit from Trudeau telling the eleven other TPP partner countries that the public input gathered at these hearings could result in demands by his government to change key aspects of the deal.

Trudeau government must end discrimination against migrant workers (Oct. 28)

We are supporting a national campaign – MoVE (Mobility, Voice, and Equality for Migrant Workers) – that is calling on Trudeau to end the practice of tying foreign workers to their employers. Under the current system, changing employers is extremely difficult. This allows employers to lower salaries and working conditions for migrant workers. As a result, wages and conditions worsen for everyone in the labour market. We support regulatory changes to make it easier for migrant workers to move between jobs thereby improving working and living conditions for all workers.

No to Bill Blair in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet (Oct. 25)

We think it’s imperative that Bill Blair, a candidate who Trudeau recruited to run for office, should not be named to cabinet. Blair was the Toronto police chief during the G20 summit in June 2010 which saw the police violate civil rights, detain people illegally, and use excessive force. More than 1,100 people were arrested during the summit, meaning Blair presided over the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Noting Blair’s G20 policing record as well as the race-based carding by the Toronto police force under his watch, Now Magazine warns, “Few people outside Stephen Harper may better personify the incremental violation of civil liberties than potential cabinet minister Blair.”

What will Trudeau’s promised Canada Health Accord look like? (Oct. 24)

A report by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions found that compared to a 6 per cent escalator model, the Harper government’s imposed funding formula would result in up to $43.5 billion of health care spending being cut over the next eight years. The Council of Canadians has called for a 10-year accord, annual 6 per cent increase in health care transfer payments to the provinces, at least 25 per cent federal funding of provincial health care costs, a prohibition on user fees and privatization, and a commitment to public solutions. We have also backed the call for a public insurance drug plan and an end to “free trade” deals that extend the costly patent provisions on pharmaceutical drugs and biologic medicines.

Trudeau plans to go to Paris without emission reduction targets (Oct. 24)

Trudeau will be attending the upcoming COP 21 climate summit in Paris, but he has not committed to a specific emission reduction target. We call for meaningful regulatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, a just transition to conservation, energy efficiency and the rapid expansion of public and community-owned renewable energy. We have also called for a freeze on fossil fuel extraction – by leaving 80 per cent of all existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground – as well as no new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction. We believe Canada can have a 100 per cent clean economy by 2050.

Council of Canadians opposes the entry of BGH milk into Canada through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Oct. 23)

It is currently illegal to inject cows in Canada with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) to boost their milk production. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would mean that dairy imports from the United States will increase significantly. That is a concern to Canadian consumers given it is not illegal to use BGH on cows in the U.S. It is unlikely that milk imported from the United States could be segregated at Canadian processing facilities or labelled in stores. As a result, we have called on Trudeau to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership given it will bring the health risks of BGH milk to Canada.

First Nations tell Trudeau to stop Site C, the era of destroying rivers should be over (Oct. 22)

We are opposed to Site C, a 60-metre high hydroelectric dam in northeastern British Columbia that would submerge 78 First Nations heritage sites, including burial grounds, help power the extraction of bitumen from the tar sands, flood prime agricultural land, emit 150,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, the equivalent of adding 27,000 cars on the road, and violate Indigenous rights. We call on Trudeau to make Canada a leader in the development of sustainable environmentally-friendly energy instead of backing mega-dams. We support the West Moberly First Nation which says, “The era of destroying rivers should be over.”

Trudeau will decide within weeks on nuclear waste dump on Lake Huron (Oct. 21)

We are calling on Trudeau to reject a plan to bury 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste near Lake Huron. A federal panel approved the nuclear waste dump on the shores of Lake Huron this past May, but the federal government must now make its decision on it by early December. If the Trudeau government approves the controversial project, nuclear waste that is considered hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years would be stored just hundreds of metres from the Great Lakes, the source of drinking water for about 40 million people in two countries.

And early next week we will be joining numerous groups to call on Trudeau to stop the National Energy Board reviews of the TransMountain and Energy East pipeline proposals. Among our numerous concerns, the current NEB review process fails to properly engage and consult with First Nations, does not include an assessment of upstream and downstream impacts or greenhouse gas emissions, and excludes impacted members of the public from the review process. Three of our chapters have also collected water samples from their waterways – the Bay of Fundy, the North Saskatchewan River, and the Thames River – to present to Trudeau on Nov. 7 to highlight the implications of proceeding with a further expansion of the tar sands.

This is just the start. A fuller list of our demands to the Trudeau government can be found here.

On Oct. 20, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote, “Together, you and I will be insisting that Justin Trudeau makes good on his promises of holding a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, negotiating a new Health Accord with the provinces, instituting electoral reform and fixing the ‘Fair’ Elections Act, ending the war on charities, repealing anti-union legislation, repealing parts of Bill C-51, welcoming more refugees to Canada, protecting the Great Lakes, and banning oil tankers off the West Coast, among other promises.”

This has been our work over the past ten days, with much more to come after the government is sworn into office on Nov. 4.

Photo: Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau. Photo by Adam Scott, Flickr