Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi tells Ipolitics.ca writer Colin Horgan today that he is nervous about public spending restrictions in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
“We’re pretty nervous about the CETA deal, and have been from the beginning,” he said. “We don’t do this much in Calgary, but other cities find it important to give preferential treatment to small business, for example, or maybe minority-owned business or locally owned business. And people are quite nervous that by opening up municipal procurement to every single company in the European Union, it will be difficult for small businesses and local businesses to thrive.”
“The federal government has been continually reassuring municipalities that the principles that we need are being reflected in the trade agreement, but of course, no one has seen the agreement, so we’re actually quite nervous about it…. Procurement is one of the few tools that cities have to look at economic development.”
The procurement chapter in CETA has been available on the Trade Justice Network website for some time and is taken almost word-for-word from the WTO Government Procurement Agreement. The big question has been whether municipalities will be covered by the chapter’s prohibition on local preferences (”buy local” policies), set-asides for aboriginal or social enterprises, and other types of triple-bottom-line spending, and then how extensively they will be covered.
More recently leaked documents suggest municipal and Crown corporation spending is almost entirely covered by CETA rules with the exception of some energy utilities and public transit in some provinces like Ontario and Quebec. There is a good chance, however, that Alberta would have thrown any caution to the wind and fully covered municipal governments and all utilities in its offer to the EU. (Alberta is one of several western provinces desperate to achieve better beef access to the European market and willing to pay a high price to get it.)
Will that change now that a big-time mayor like Nenshi has come out publicly with these concerns? He’s not convinced.
“If the deal is made and it’s bad for cities, there’s not much we can do if the federal government signs off on it,” Nenshi told Ipolitics. “The federal government has committed to listening to what the cities have to say, and incorporating our concerns, so we really have to hold them at face value on that and have faith in them.”
We have a better option.
We encourage Mayor Nenshi to put his concerns on the books by joining the more than 50 other Canadian municipalities to officially request to be exempt from CETA’s public spending rules. We would love to put Calgary on the map.
There is no good reason why municipal governments should give up the ability to use public spending as an economic development tool, as Mayor Nenshi argues it can be in an effective way. Buying locally can create double the economic and jobs benefits in some cases, according to a new report out of B.C.
Prime Minister Harper returned from Europe this week without a new trade and corporate rights deal (CETA). We argued yesterday that most of us should take this with a sigh of relief. The widespread concerns of municipalities about CETA’s procurement rules are just one of many reasons why we can’t trust the Harper government to sign off on a deal without first giving people the chance to see if it goes to far, and to make chances to CETA before it’s finalized.