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NEWS: Cities a bargaining chip in CETA talks

Municipal  councillors were greeted with this banner at the FCM  convention
Municipal councillors were greeted with this banner at the FCM convention

Atlantic regional organizer Angela Giles writes in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald that, “Last weekend, municipal councillors from across Canada met in Halifax for the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention. On the agenda were infrastructure renewal, how to best deliver social services, and how cities should confront climate change. But if you were following the FCM’s Twitter hashtag Saturday morning, you’ll have seen that trade was perhaps the most controversial topic of discussion, namely the Canada-EU free trade agreement.”

“This is not surprising considering how deeply the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will affect how municipalities offer services, build infrastructure, or pay for the goods and services they need to operate. There’s little to no payoff for municipal governments from the proposed pact, just restrictions on their ability to write public policy. In fact, Canada’s cities and towns are merely bargaining chips for the Harper government and provinces in the ongoing CETA negotiations. Municipalities in Canada spend over $100 billion annually on goods, services and construction projects. EU trade negotiators see a generous procurement chapter in the Canada-EU trade deal as a way to win more public tenders for large, highly competitive EU-based firms.”

Giles also notes, “From water, transit and energy to construction, environmental, architecture and catering, there are thousands of opportunities for these firms to undercut the smaller Canadian competition. Buy-local policies will be banned under CETA. The deal will also compromise ethical or sustainable purchasing strategies by municipalities, school boards, hospitals or Crown corporations. Additional investment commitments on services, in combination with these procurement rules, will make it difficult to ensure services such as drinking water and wastewater treatment remain in public hands. These were among the findings of a legal opinion of CETA for the Centre for Civic Governance, which the Council of Canadians has been sharing with councillors and school trustees in Canada.”

To read her full commentary, go to http://thechronicleherald.ca/Letters/1247588.html. To read our media release stating we would be outside the FCM convention on June 3 (its opening day) to raise awareness about CETA, go to http://canadians.org/media/trade/2011/03-Jun-11.html. The handbills we distributed are at http://canadians.org/trade/documents/CETA/CETA-handbills.pdf.