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Quebec groups, politicians call for immediate public debate on CETA

The Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC), its allied organizations and even members of the Quebec legislature today demanded a broad and informed public debate on the Canada-EU free trade negotiations. The groups and individuals made statements at a press conference in Montreal this morning, only days away from a ninth and possibly final round of CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) talks in Ottawa.

Régine Laurent, president of the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) and RQIC member, denounced the anti-democratic way in which negotiators are making decisions in the name of the public without ever having received a public mandate.

“The Charest government is a major player in the CETA negotiations and we demand that he make public the offers that Quebec has put on the table,” she said at the press conference (my translation).

RQIC announced that its access to information request for the provincial offers was declined this week. But from leaked copies of the CETA text we know that services in the areas of health care, education, electricity, telecommunications and drinking water, as well as culture and public procurement are all part of the Canada-EU discussion.

Denis Bolduc, secretary general in Québec of the Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique (CUPE), asked why Quebec’s negotiator, Pierre-Marc Johnson, sold the deal publicly based on new access to the European market when all he talks about today is attracting foreign investment to Charest’s northern development plans — Plan Nord. CETA will include an investor-to-state dispute process which will give European firms extracting resources in Quebec’s northern region new protections against environmental or public health policy, says the RQIC press statement.

Also at the press conference was Frédéric Viale of ATTAC France and the Seattle To Brussels network. He was invited to Canada by the Trade Justice Network and RQIC to participate in a week of actions against CETA over the next few days and will be speaking at the Council of Canadians-CUPE CETA tour stop in Ottawa next Wednesday. Viale used today’s press conference to release a joint declaration on CETA signed by dozens of French and Quebecois organizations and individuals. The statement concludes that faced with the menace of CETA, the signatories declare:

– That we should not be agreeing to this type of trade deal now which has been publicly rejected in the past.
– That trade agreements must promote cooperation and put the common good, human rights and environmental protections above the limited private interests of transnational corporations
– That democracy would be compromised by CETA and that social and environmental laws must remain the domain of transparent, public institutions.

Participants in today’s press conference in Quebec included: Régine Laurent, president of the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ/RQIC), Denis Bolduc, secretary general in Québec of the Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique (SCFP), Alexa Conradi, president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ/RQIC), Claude Vaillancourt, co-president of Attac-Québec/RQIC, Frédéric Viale, spokesperson from Attac France and Seattle To Brussels, Jean-Martin Aussant, independent member of the Quebec legislature from Nicolet-Yamaska, and Michèle Asselin, coordinator of the Centre international de solidarité ouvrière (CISO/RQIC).

I’ll post a link to the full report when it’s available. There will be an English translation very soon.