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ELECTION 2011: ‘Common sense says no CETA negotiations during election’, says Barlow

Day 7: We are almost a full week into this election. Yesterday, we were able to raise our concerns about the Canada-European Union ‘free trade’ talks including through articles in Postmedia newspapers across the country and, as noted below, in today’s Toronto Star. You’ll also note below emerging commentary and reports on health care, tar sands subsidies, nuclear power, and First Nations drinking water.

THE COUNCIL OF CANADIANS: The Toronto Star reports today, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged Thursday to clinch a free-trade deal with the European Union by 2012 and with India in 2013. Harper vowed his government would move ahead ‘full throttle’ to complete the talks… The Council of Canadians is calling on provincial and territorial governments to use the pause in the negotiations to consult publicly on what should be put on the table. ‘Common sense tells us you shouldn’t be allowed to make major policy decisions during an election that would bind future governments,’ said Maude Barlow, the advocacy group’s national chair. ‘The deal involves controversial social and economic policy changes that should be made by Parliament.’ …Ottawa says its plan would give European corporations the ability to bid for procurement contracts from federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as public utilities and hospitals. And it would ban so-called buy local purchasing strategies by municipal governments… Barlow said opening Canada’s telecommunications and financial sectors to more foreign ownership could be on the table in April.  Extending Canada’s patent terms on brand name drugs, scrapping provincial liquor boards and supply management systems for dairy farmers, and opening up Atlantic fishing ports to more European boats may be discussed as well, she added. …According to Canadian trade negotiators, the next round of talks will be the first time sensitive and to date secret provincial and territorial offers will be exchanged with the EU as the provinces and territories will be at the table for the first time. Those offers will include services, including public water, health, transit and energy services, as well as public procurement by provincial and municipal government agencies, Barlow said.” The full article can be read at http://www.thestar.com/federalelection/article/966877–harper-pledges-deadline-to-wrap-up-eu-and-india-trade-talks.

MAUDE BARLOW VIDEO: Watch a 2:37-minute video of Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow commenting on the first week of the federal election:

CHAPTER-ORGANIZED ALL-CANDIDATES DEBATES: The Montreal Council of Canadians chapter is organizing an all-candidates debate to be held on April 6. More details soon.

FIRST NATIONS DRINKING WATER: Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui writes in her blog, “It is important to note that the 65 F-35 fighter jets that Harper plans to purchase have been estimated to cost over $100 million each. So to be clear, the purchase of two of these fighter jets would exceed what is being allocated to First Nation communities for drinking water. …With election campaigning well under way, we need to highlight the importance of Canada’s recognition on the right to water and to press party leaders to make effective commitments to improve drinking water in First Nation communities.” Emma’s blog is at http://canadians.org/waterblog/ and http://www.rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/making-waves/2011/03/first-nations-drinking-water-and-federal-election.

TAR SANDS SUBSIDIES:  CTV reports, “NDP Leader Jack Layton wants to eliminate $2 billion in subsidies for the oilsands, and put the money toward clean energy. The idea has been endorsed by federal Finance Department officials, the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation, and the G20, but has been rejected repeatedly by the Harper government. …Research by the International Institute of Sustainable Development has pegged the value of federal and provincial government subsidies for fossil fuels at $2 billion a year. The subsidies mostly come in the form of tax measures and investment incentives. The federal share amounts to about $1.4 billion a year, according to the institute. The institute estimates emissions from the oil sands are 12 per cent higher than they would be without government subsidies.”

HEALTH CARE: CBC reports, “NDP Leader Jack Layton is expected to make a significant health-care announcement during a campaign stop in Sudbury, Ont., on Friday.” Although the article does not note this, today is the 27th anniversary of the Canada Health Act. Andre Picard writes in the Globe and Mail, “The most pressing and politically delicate health issue the next prime minister will have to deal with is the renewal of the Health Accord, which expires in 2014. When medicare began in the early 1960s, Ottawa enticed the provinces into adopting national standards by paying 50 per cent of their health bills. But the feds (Conservatives and Liberals alike) gradually weaselled out of that commitment and they now cover about 20 per cent of publicly funded health costs. This year, Ottawa will provide $25.4-billion in cash and $13.1-billion in tax points to the provinces and territories under the Canada Health Transfer, and the amount increases 6 per cent annually. Moreover, those massive cash transfers come with no strings attached and little monitoring. Our wannabe political leaders should be clearly stating: a) how much they are willing to offer in CHT transfers; b) how they will keep spending in check and; c) what will they demand in return.”

NUCLEAR POWER: The Toronto Star reports, “While Japan undergoes the agony of a nuclear accident, the future of Canada’s nuclear industry has raised barely a ripple in the current federal election campaign (despite) federal environmental and safety hearings are under way on a proposal to approve plans for new nuclear reactors at the Darlington nuclear site. Countries as diverse as China and Switzerland have paused to rethink their nuclear futures as a result of the Japanese catastrophe.  In fact, on Thursday a coalition of environmental groups (including the Council of Canadians) called for a royal commission into nuclear power — with all new construction and refurbishment projects halted until it reports. But nuclear advocates don’t intend to remain silent during the campaign.”

KEY RIDINGS:  The Council of Canadians is in the process of finalizing a list of 25 key ridings across the country that the Harper Conservatives has targeted to take away from an opposition party or keep Conservative in order to secure the 12 net additional seats they need to form a majority government. We will focus some of our efforts – through outreach to our members and the work of chapters – in these swing ridings as part of our attempt to deny the Conservatives the 12 seats they need for a majority.

COUNCIL MEMBERS RUNNING AS CANDIDATES:  While we are non-partisan, our members do run for elected office. The Green Party candidate in the Yorkton-Melville riding in Saskatchewan is Elaine Hughes. Her website notes that she “supports and is an active member in several environmental and social justice organizations such as the Council of Canadians, Food For All Coalition, National Farmers Union and the Saskatchewan non-nuclear movement.” The Times & Transcript reports that the NDP candidate in the riding of Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe “Shawna Gagne grew up in Moncton, and is a member of various organizations such as the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Greater Moncton, the Council of Canadians, YWCA, the Moncton Museum, and the Moncton Art Society.” The Southwest Booster reported earlier this month that, “Trevor Peterson, the newly nominated NDP candidate in the Cypress Hills-Grasslands riding (in Saskatchewan is) currently a member of the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Saskatchewan NDP.”

CALLS TO THE OTTAWA OFFICE: While calls to our Ottawa office related to the federal election can often be transferred to our campaigns assistant, a campaigner, organizer, our media officer, or other staff, we’ve also set up an extension (1-800-387-7177 extension 333) as a voicemail for election-related calls that can’t be addressed right away.

WHERE THE LEADERS ARE TODAY: CBC reports, “Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was expected to remain in Atlantic Canada, appearing at a campaign event in Dieppe, N.B., Friday morning followed by a rally in Covehead, P.E.I., in the evening. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was headed to Ontario Friday, where he was expected to make a family care announcement in Ottawa. He was then scheduled to head to Kitchener, Ont., for a campaign office opening, followed by a town hall on equal opportunities for families. Jack Layton is scheduled to make (an announcement on health care) during a town hall meeting at Laurentian University at 2 p.m. local time. Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe was scheduled to start the day with a photo shoot at a cafe in Quebec City, followed by a visit to local businesses in Beauport, Que. Duceppe was set to finish off the day with a campaign launch for Quebec MP Christiane Gagnon.” Green Party leader Elizabeth May will be in Victoria and in Saanich, BC.

TODAY’S POLLS: NEWS 1130 reports, “A new survey suggests Canadians are saying enough to seven years of minority government. The Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll found 45 per cent of Canadians would like to elect a majority government in the May 2 election; however, voters remain split on who should lead that majority. Twenty-nine per cent want a Conservative majority for Stephen Harper’s Tories, while 16 per cent want a Liberal majority led by Michael Ignatieff. Harris Decima chairman Alan Gregg said only 20 per cent want another minority.” And as noted in yesterday’s election blog, CTV reports, “The Conservatives are holding steady but the New Democrats have bled support to the Liberals, according to a new poll released Thursday morning. The numbers from Nanos Research show the Conservatives at 39.1 per cent support, just up from 38.6 per cent in the last round of polls. However, support for the NDP has dropped from 19.9 per cent to 15.9 per cent. The Liberals, by contrast, have seen their support rise from 27.6 per cent to 32.7 per cent.  The Bloc Quebecois nudged down slightly from 10.1 per cent to 8.7 per cent, while the Greens went from 3.8 to 3.7 per cent.”