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NEWS: Cement company launches NAFTA challenge against McGuinty government during election

A St. Mary’s cement company media release today announces, “St Marys VCNA, LLC has submitted its claim to NAFTA Chapter Eleven Arbitration alleging the McGuinty government was so politically motivated to secure a Hamilton-area provincial seat and to benefit Liberal political insiders that it used a Minister’s Zoning Order and Declaration of Provincial interest – for the first time ever in a quarry application – to kill the Flamborough Quarry. …St Marys is seeking damages of not less than $US275 million in compensation for the loss, harm, injury, loss of reputation and damage imposed by various governments.”

Among the allegations made by St. Mary’s just 19 days before the Ontario provincial election, “The McGuinty government – Minister Jim Bradley – took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to kill a proposed quarry that is adjacent to the home of his former senior staffer and the staffer’s wife, who was a senior adviser to Liberal Premier Peterson.” The Toronto Star reported in late-August that, “Bradley said…he acted…due to the potential harm from the quarry to groundwater that feeds wells, wetlands and streams. ‘Water supply was a very, very important component of this. The local municipalities were opposed to it. Local citizens were opposed to it and it was done on that basis. It was extremely unpopular locally,’ he said.”

According to the company, “St. Marys previously filed a NAFTA Notice of Intent on May 13, 2011 over the unfair treatment of its investment in Hamilton, Ontario. On May 19, St Marys Cement filed an Application for Judicial Review by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. …By submitting its Notice of Arbitration, St Marys, a U.S. investor, has commenced a process that will create a three person international panel to review, in early 2012… St. Marys continues to await high-level government consultations as part of the NAFTA claim process.”

Osgoode Hall Law School professor Gus Van Harten recently wrote in the Hamilton Spectator, “The arbitration process under NAFTA Chapter 11, and many other trade deals, gives foreign investors a trump card. If a government rethinks a project for environmental or health reasons, foreign investors can sue for very generous compensation. This includes rights to compensation that do not exist in Canadian law out of respect for democratic choice and responsive regulation. Worse, the lawsuits are not resolved in an international court. They are resolved by private arbitrators who do not have the safeguards of independence that judges enjoy. …More importantly, Canada must stop signing trade deals (like the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) that allow for investor-state arbitration. If Canadian companies need these protections abroad, they can negotiate them directly in their contracts with foreign governments.”

A Seattle to Brussels network statement this week informed us, “On Monday 12 September the General Affairs Council approved negotiating mandates for investment protection chapters in its free trade agreements. This new mandate is now applicable for the EU negotiators who try to reach new trade deals with Singapore, India and Canada. …The sole purpose of the new given mandate is to ensure that EU investors get the highest possible rights and best opportunities to sue the other states before international arbitration tribunals if they think that they have not been treated fairly.”

A previous Council of Canadians blog on the St. Mary’ NAFTA challenge can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10081.