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Guelph chapter holds public forum on the TPP with parliamentary secretary to the trade minister

Twitter photo by Canada Trade.

The Council of Canadians Guelph chapter held a town hall meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership on April 27.

About 125 people came out to hear the panel featuring Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, retired Health Canada scientist Dr. Shiv Chopra, Osgoode Hall Law School professor Gus Van Harten, and parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade David Lametti.

Chapter activist Lin Grist tells us, “Mertins-Kirkwood talked about the agreement from an economic perspective and pointed out that the agreement is really mostly about things that are not trade but a lot about investor rights, the environment and other issues – he called it a comprehensive economic agreement. Dr. Chopra focused on food and agriculture [noting] that only corporate farmers are in favour [of the TPP, while] the National Farmers Union and  the family owned  farms constituency, who he has spoken with on his cross country tour, are totally opposed to the TPP.  And Van Harten was quite clear that he believes that the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system that is a large part of the TPP agreement is very bad for Canada.”

Grist highlights, “Lametti made it clear that his government have not yet made a decision on whether or not the TPP will be good for Canada and were not in a hurry to do so and that he was not on the panel to either defend or support the TPP. He was, however, at pains to tell the audience that there are many stakeholders he has heard who support the TPP as good for them. He told the audience that the agreement must be in line with the government’s stated position on climate change out of COP21 and the commitment to nation-to-nation negotiations with aboriginal peoples. And Lametti noted that ISDS would not be a ‘chill’ factor for new legislation (social or environmental) because Canada could still pass laws, they would simply have to pay the international investors what their profit might have been if the legislation has not been passed.”

A few points on the statements made by Lametti at the public forum:

  • The government will reportedly hold a ratification vote on the TPP in the House of Commons in the fall of 2017.

  • The stakeholder ‘consultations’ that Lametti highlights often happen with very little notice. (The Guelph chapter did attend the March 17 ‘consultation’, but did so with less than 24 hours notice of the meeting.)

  • Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has said the TPP would prevent Canada from moving toward a low-carbon economy because, “If you pass a regulation that restricts ability to pollute or does something about climate change, you could be sued and could pay billions of dollars.”

  • The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Rights Victoria Tauli-Corpuz has said the TPP threatens Indigenous land rights because “the clause of non-discrimination between a local and an international investor … grants more rights to transnational firms, often at the expense of indigenous rights.”

  • Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated the ISDS provisions “give a special status to foreign corporations by allowing them to challenge the laws that apply to everyone else through a special system outside established court systems.” The largest association of judges in Germany (the Deutscher Richterbund) has noted, “Special courts for only certain groups are the wrong way” and “neither is there a legal basis nor the necessity” for it.

And Grist comments, “For someone who has yet to make up his mind, Lametti gave lots of examples of the people he has spoken with who support the TPP and those with concerns were frankly given short shrift.”

The town hall was sponsored by the Council of Canadians Guelph Chapter, The Bookshelf, Wellington Water Watchers, Guelph Wellington Social Justice Committee, Ontario Public Interest Research Group, and other civic groups.

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