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Progressive Canadian voters support changes to trade deals

CETA Trojan Horse

As party leaders debated the economy Thursday night, Canadians look for an independent voice to cut through the spin about the Canada-Europe trade deal, according to a poll conducted for the Council of Canadians by EKOS Research. Seventy-one per cent support the Parliamentary Budget Officer assessing the Canada-Europe Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

I believe that Canadians, especially progressive Canadians, want to move beyond partisan rhetoric with an independent analysis of the Canada-Europe trade deal. We want an honest assessment from the Parliamentary Budget Officer of what we’re gaining and what we’re giving up.

Seventy-seven per cent of Liberal voters backed the idea of an independent assessment, as did 74 per cent of NDP supporters and 65 per cent of Greens. Even 62 per cent of Conservative voters, despite the government’s constant cheerleading for CETA, indicated their support for an assessment.

Recently, the Trade Justice Network asked that trade deals to be analyzed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer as part of a process of full accountability to Parliament, a recommendation made earlier today by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette. Payette has demanded that the PBO do an independent analysis of CETA, the Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement between Canada and the EU.

“Most Canadians wouldn’t buy a new car without researching the warranty coverage, the mileage, reviews of the vehicle and so on. Yet our government would have us agree to sweeping economic agreements like CETA and the TPP without providing any facts at all, just empty slogans about how wonderful things will be after we sign on,” says Larry Brown, national secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees and co-chair of the Trade Justice Network.

Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, echoes this concern. “With CETA, Harper has been promoting dubious job figures that many economists challenge. These deals often have nothing to do with real economic trade or jobs but are corporate rights treaties that benefit only the few. When we are making decisions of that great import, they cannot be negotiated in secret with no accountability to citizens and without any real independent analysis.”

In Australia, the Productivity Commission, an independent government advisory body that analyzes trade deals before they are signed, has recently expressed concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently under negotiation.

“We completely support the Senator’s request to the PBO for some research into the real impacts of CETA or the TPP. We wouldn’t want this research to wait until we’ve already signed on to the deals. We should be given the facts about the TPP long before our government commits us to the deal, and we certainly deserve the facts about CETA before it is ratified,” concluded Brown.

The poll also asked whether Canadians support controversial investor protections that allow foreign companies to sue governments when legislation or policies, including environmental regulations, reduce corporate profits. Sixty-one per cent oppose these protections and 20 per cent support them. Opposition by party was 71 per cent for Greens, 68 per cent for NDP voters and 60 per cent of Liberals.

I also believe that Canadians want a trade deal with Europe, but that doesn’t mean we want multinational corporations suing us every time our government passes a new environmental regulation or social program. The progressive parties have a chance to differentiate themselves from the Conservatives by demanding fairer trade deals free from corporate lawsuits.

The poll of 1,092 adults in Canada was conducted online between September 8 and 15 by EKOS Research Inc. and has been statistically weighted to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to census data. A probability sample of this size would have an accuracy of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.