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NEWS: Council trade campaigner speaks against CETA in Edmonton

Edmonton’s Vue Weekly reports that, “At the end of this year, cities in Canada may have already lost one of their key business tools, and they’ll have the federal government to thank. Since 2008 the federal government has been negotiating with the European Union to create a free trade deal in the vein of NAFTA, with one key difference: this deal will include municipalities. The deal has been in formal talks for over a year, but many municipal leaders are only just hearing about the issue. …Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, thinks that’s the way the Harper government would prefer to do business. ‘They’re really trying to keep it quiet because it’s much deeper than NAFTA and they’re going after controversial areas.’ Trew says.”

“The major issue at stake for municipalities is their purchasing power, as Trew says, one of the last levers municipalities have to stake out public policy. Public procurement by cities is currently being used to set ‘Buy Local’ initiatives, support local innovation and develop green initiatives such as Ontario’s Green Energy Act—an act, modelled on public policy decisions in European nations, which has created environmental leaders such as Germany.

‘As a municipality you can no longer maximize the social and sustainability benefits of your public spending,’ says Trew. …Right now European companies have every right to bid on municipal service provision, but under the new trade agreement the city will have to provide more reason to deny the bid than simply favouring local development. ‘It gives companies new levers to challenge not only bids they don’t win, but to potentially discourage municipalities from thinking of local procurement and using it in a sustainable way,’ says Trew. ‘It basically limits that and says no, you always have to think of the bottom line and so the only people it benefits are multinational companies who can offer the bottom line costs.'”

“The worry is not simply with future green policies that the city may put in place, but with core municipal services. A legal review of the proposed CETA rules by Steven Shrybman at the Columbia Institute determined the trade deal would limit cities’ ability to use procurement and therefore, ‘municipalities would lose one of the few, and perhaps the most important tool they now have for stimulating innovation, fostering community economic development, creating local employment and achieving other public policy goals, from food security to social equity.'”

The article concludes, “‘It will be great to see more debates on this before a deal is signed,’ says Trew. ‘There’s no reason not to bring Canadians into trade negotiations when you’re talking about the changes you want to make to public policy in Canada.'”

To collect signatures for the Council of Canadians petition against CETA, please go to http://canadians.org/action/2011/CETA-petition.html.

With a circulation of 26,000 and a readership of 90,000, Vue Weekly has the widest circulation in the urban core in Edmonton. The article is at http://vueweekly.com/front/story/forgotten_cities/.