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NEWS: Conservatives say Council of Canadians and allies are stirring up discontent against CETA

National Post columnist John Ivison writes, “Conservatives have noted that opposition to the (Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) is rallying around leftist civil society and labour groups like the Council of Canadians and the CAW, who are stirring up discontent at municipal level by suggesting that under the deal, all local procurement will have to be offered up for tender internationally.”

“The Tories intend to rectify the situation later this week, when ministers will fan out across the country to sell the deal to Canadians, claiming it will benefit every region. Government sources say they will be spelling out those benefits and attempting to dispel the ‘falsehoods’ raised by their opponents.”

This commentary comes just after the Postmedia News report today that, “(CETA) should be finalized ‘within half a year’, the Danish trade minister said Monday. …Denmark’s Pia Olsen Dyhr said ’75 per cent’ of the comprehensive trade agreement has been completed. …(But) rules of origin – which determine what goods can be subject to tariffs – and supply management of agricultural goods continue to be points of contention between the two parties, said Dyhr, whose country holds the EU presidency.”

“Critics of the deal on both sides of the Atlantic argue that parts of the agreement could have effects on domestic jobs, make the privatization of public services a likelihood and increase the prices of consumer goods and pharmaceutical drugs. Dozens of Canadian cities have asked the government for exemptions from the agreement, worried the pact will limit their ability to award contracts to local organizations. ‘They are asking why they should have to give up important job creation tools like putting Canadian content requirements on public contracts or using buy-local policies to help local farmers,’ said Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, a national organization that opposes the agreement. ‘The Canada-EU trade deal offers little new access to the European market that Canadian companies don’t already have.'”

The Postmedia article notes, “The parties originally aimed to have a deal wrapped up by the end of 2011.” And Ivison writes, “From the government’s point of view, a deal in 2012 is crucial, particularly given the prospect of new provincial governments in Quebec City and Victoria who may be less sympathetic to the trade agenda.” It has been speculated that the Quebec election will take place in April 2013, while the provincial election in British Columbia will take place on May 14, 2013.

Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew says it had been expected that CETA would be signed in August, but now, based on Dyhr’s remarks, it could be October or even later in 2012. Once signed, the ratification process could take another year or more, putting our deadline to stop the deal sometime in mid-2014 or even early-2015.