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Ontario municipalities share Northumberland coalition’s concerns with CETA, pass resolution seeking municipal exemption

On Wednesday, May 18 the Township of Alnwick/Haldimand, Ontario passed a resolution asking the Government of Ontario, “along with the other provincial and territorial governments to negotiate a clear, permanent exemption for local governments from CETA.” The resolution followed a presentation to council from a Northumberland delegation of Trade Justice Network partners, including the Council of Canadians, CUPE, First Nations, United Steelworkers, National Farmers Union and health workers.

The group explained in their presentation how CETA posed enough of a risk to municipal governments that they needn’t be part of the deal.  Alnwick/Haldimand joined the Ontario Town of New Tecumseth in passing the CETA resolution, which has been sent by both councils to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario for consideration and approval during the AMO annual conference this August 21 in London.

The Northumberland chapter of the Council of Canadians has been integral to the formation of the local Trade Justice Network group, which has been presenting on CETA to area municipalities on an almost weekly basis. (See below for tips on how you can form your own local TJN.) Elma Parker was part of a group presenting this week to Hamilton Township and Cobourg.

“We are concerned about the lack of information sharing on this issue, since it will have implications for municipalities and local municipal governance,” says her presentation. “There has been little coverage of this deal, with only parliamentary reports from last fall (Sept 3rd, 2010) and leaked copies of the draft negotiating texts, which can be found on the Trade Justice Network website.

“What we want is a discussion of this CETA Trade Agreement.”

The TJN group has been explaining to municipal councils three aspects of CETA that will affect their jurisdiction, and which break new ground in trade deals: (a)Procurement; (b)Municipal Services – “such as water and waste water services, garbage, public transit, energy, public housing and much, much more,” and; (c)Local domestic Regulation. “While we are critical of the procurement chapter in CETA, we are by no means opposed to open, fair and transparent trade processes,” says the group. The presentation explains that CETA:

would open up opportunities for European Union corporations who do not get their way to tie municipalities up with expensive legal challenges, and municipalities would bear the costs and litigation risks. Given the conditions, it is surprising that neither the federal nor the provincial governments have presented an assessment of their impact, nor have they offered any meaningful assessment of what municipalities might gain from abandoning their procurement rights.

The resolution passed by Alnwick/Haldimand last month is similar to the one passed by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities at its annual meeting last September, though with additional information in the preamble (see below). Ontario municipalities who have passed the resolution are hoping the AMO follows in the UBCM’s footsteps by adopting it as the association’s official position this August.

This month, the City of Port Hope chose not to pass the resolution following a presentation from the Council of Canadians and Northumberland TJN coalition. City staff and some councillors claimed misleadingly that “buy local” policies are illegal in Ontario, so the resolution as presented would be against the law. It was an incredible position to take, leading Elma to respond in a letter to Northumberland Today that, “The dog ate my homework seems to be the only way to explain Councillor Rick Austin’s and finance director, Liz Araujo’s comments regarding the Council of Canadians’ presentation regarding CETA.” The letter continues:

It is not fair to saddle future councils with a troublesome, flippant decision. The present estimate of all Canadian government procurement is $98 billion, that foreign multinational corporations will be lobbying hard to obtain. If foreign companies feel mistreated in the bidding process, the legal disputes will be decided by an international and privately-controlled Trade Tribunal, not our courts. Then there can be appeals and more appeals, delaying a project for months or years…

All the Council of Canadians were asking for, was a resolution to exclude all procurement deals from CETA, to be circulated to Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the M.P. and M.P.P. and that it be “placed on the agenda at the AMO Conference for consideration and approval.” That doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Several other municipalities across Canada have already done this.

The Alnwick/Haldimand resolution reads as follows:


Mr. Bob Garthson, Broad Coalition of Northumberland Residents Oppose Canada-European Union Free Trade Agreement (CETA) Requesting Council to support the pass the sample resolutions. (Additional information has been provided in hard copy in the agenda package envelope)_________________

Moved by Councillor Holmes, seconded by Councillor Logel;

“WHEREAS the government of Canada and the European Union have been negotiating a trade agreement known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (the “CETA”); and

WHEREAS the European Union and European corporations are insisting on full access to procurement by sub-national governments – including municipalities, school boards, universities, hospitals and other provincial agencies – which could significantly reduce or eliminate the right to specify local priorities and/or standards when public money is invested in goods, services or capital projects; and

WHEREAS Canadian municipalities have expressed growing concerns with trade agreements and their potential impact on municipal programs and services and local autonomy; and

WHEREAS under CETA, unfettered access to Canadian municipal procurement by European corporations may encourage privatization and reduce economic development options for local communities; and

WHEREAS under CETA, foreign corporation that have won contracts may bring in their own labour force and may not be required to hire Canadian labour and/or management; and

WHEREAS the government of Ontario has been actively involved in negotiating CETA with the European Union:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Corporation of the Township of Alnwick/Haldimand as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to request:

– The Province of Ontario to provide a briefing on the scope an d content of trade negotiations with the European Union;
– The Federation of Canadian Municipalities to provide sector-by-sector analysis of the potential impacts on municipal functions and powers of the procurement regime that the European Union is seeking;
– The Federation of Canadian Municipalities to urge the Government of Canada not to provide the European Union access to sub national government procurement; and
– The Government of Ontario, along with the other provincial and territorial governments to negotiate a clear, permanent exemption for local governments from CETA.


To see our Action Alert demanding that municipalities and school boards be removed from the CETA negotiations, click here.


Charlotte Majic of the Northumberland chapter of the Council of Canadians recently wrote me with the great idea to encourage other chapters to form their own Trade Justice Network locals. Chapters are encouraged to contact their local TJN partners. You can see a list of organizations who are part of the national network on the TJN website under the declaration on CETA. It’s easy to check online if they have a local group in your area.

“Ask them if they have plans to act on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA),” suggests Charlotte. “Encourage your local TJN partners to meet with you to discuss actions and next steps. Some Chapters have formed coalitions with various TJN partners in their areas and have found the effort motivating and encouraging. Most local TJN partners are eager to join with the COC in organizing actions like presentations to municipalities, speakers forums etc.”

It’s a brilliant idea that I’m passing on to you. For more help on fighting CETA in your community, you can also contact your closest Council of Canadians regional organizer. Good luck!