Skip to content

NEWS: What happens if cities, provinces violate Canada-EU CETA?

This past spring, Toronto voted to have the Ontario government negotiate a permanent exemption for the city from CETA.

This past spring, Toronto voted to have the Ontario government negotiate a permanent exemption for the city from CETA.

Globe and Mail reporter Barrie McKenna writes, “The promise of the Canada-Europe free trade deal has always been super-sized: a vast market of 500 million people in 27 countries. …But the deal, now entering a final push of tense negotiations, is uncharted and potentially dangerous terrain for Canada. …The provinces are closely involved in the negotiations. They have also submitted lengthy annexes that detail which sectors they are willing to open up, and which ones they are not. But the provinces are not official signatories. Nor are the thousands of local governments, which will be bound by the terms of the deal.”

He highlights, “What happens if the City of Montreal balks at letting a European supplier compete for a subway contract to steer the work to Bombardier Inc.? Or, Saskatchewan chooses a local engineering firm to build new schools or hospitals? …City council in Mississauga, Ont., voted unanimously earlier this year to seek a permanent exemption from the deal – a symbolic gesture that could nonetheless come back to haunt Canadian taxpayers. …Ottawa would ultimately be on the hook for compensating the European bidder for the country’s failure to honour the agreement.”

McKenna concludes, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is desperate to show that his all-hands-on-deck trade push is gaining traction. The consequences of a future breach may be the furthest thing from his mind.”

Or it could be that Harper is already thinking that there is a way to have provinces and cities pay the fines/ compensation for ‘violations’ of CETA. In August 2010, in response to the $130 settlement the federal government reached with AbitibiBowater over actions by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Harper stated, “I have indicated that in future, should provincial actions cause significant legal obligations for the government of Canada, the government of Canada will create a mechanism so that it can reclaim monies lost through international trade processes.”

For a fuller list of municipalities that have passed resolutions calling for an exemption or an expression of concern, go to http://canadians.org/ceta. In August, trade campaigner Stuart Trew wrote, “At least 76 municipalities, school boards or municipal associations have passed motions on CETA raising concerns about its impact on local democracy. More than half of them want the provinces to exclude municipal governments from the proposed agreement’s procurement rules.” McKenna’s article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/canada-eu-trade-talks-push-cities-provinces-into-constitutional-grey-areas/article4911048/.