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Maude Barlow speaks on trade in Toronto

Andrew Cash writes in Toronto’s NOW Magazine (with 112,881 readers) that, “A flash of deja vu hits me as I sit in the beautiful Victoria College Chapel at U of T on October 20 last week listening to the Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow talk about free trade.”

“My first awareness of this human rights champion was during the great debate in the 80s over Canada’s free trade deal with the U.S. I can’t help feeling a little nostalgic for that simple time when the story was a bit clearer: you were either for or against closer ties with our huge neighbour to the south.”

“But Barlow and fellow panellist Sid Ryan tell the almost 200 people in attendance that while 20 years ago there were very few bilateral trade deals, there are now 2,600 around the world. ‘You cannot be literate about the economy without being trade-literate,’ Barlow says.”

“Indeed, the Canadian government and the provinces have embarked on a dizzying agenda of behind-closed-doors inter-provincial and international trade deals.”

ONTARIO-QUEBEC INTERPROVINCIAL TRADE DEAL “Among the least remarked upon is one in process between Ontario and Quebec. Pay attention to this, because the Council of Canadians believes it could leave sub-national governments (provincial, municipal and even universities and hospitals) open to trade challenges from multinational corps. Such a pact, free trade critics argue, could affect everything from university buy-local policies to large-scale plans like Quebec’s public daycare system.”

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
“But what’s bugging most trade pact activists these days is Canada’s attempt at an agreement with unionist-murdering Colombia.”

“In July 2007, Stephen Harper announced that Canada was in negotiations with Colombia, though Parliament and civil society were far from the action. A year later, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade was sufficiently concerned that it issued a report calling for an independent human rights impact assessment before any deal was signed. Harper, however, beat the committee to the punch by announcing in June 2008, just before the report was tabled, that an agreement had already been reached.”

“The NDP and the Bloc still aggressively oppose the deal until the independent assessment. And get this: the Liberals, at the time headed by Stéphane Dion, supported the committee’s position. Not any longer. Under the rightward tutelage of Professor Iggy, the Libs are once again gung-ho free-traders and have backed away from an independent investigation.”

“Okay, if we’re saying Canada is comfortable enough with egregious human rights violations to ink a deal, maybe we should ask what’s in it for us. ‘Good question,’ says (Rick Arnold of Common Frontiers). ‘Less than 1 per cent of our exports go to Colombia.’ Doesn’t sound like much. ‘I think that depends on what your definition of Canadian is,’ says Barlow. ‘If you are a Canadian mining, pulp and paper or private water company, this is great. It isn’t going to benefit regular Canadians. This is a deal for investors.'”

The full NOW Magazine article is at http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=171984.

To read more about our ‘Say bye to buy local’ trade tour in Ontario, please go to http://canadians.org/events/index.html#ON.

Council of Canadians analysis on the Canada-Colombia FTA can be found at http://canadians.org/trade/issues/CCFTA/index.html.