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Thunder Bay votes for CETA exemption as Harper prepares to meet German Chancellor Merkel

Last night, Thunder Bay city council voted unanimously to request an exemption from the Canada-EU free trade deal. In doing so, the city joins dozens of others, including Toronto, Victoria, Sackville, Hamilton and Baie Comeau, opposing restrictions on their public spending that put buy local policies and local economic development options at risk. The municipal  backlash to CETA has been problematic for the Conservative government, which launched a misleading new propaganda campaign this summer in response. We’re hoping the controversy creeps into Harper’s dinner conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel this Wednesday.

The new Thunder Bay Motion motion reads as follows:

With respect to the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA),

We request that the Province of Ontario consider a clear, permanent exemption for the City of Thunder Bay from the Canada-EU CETA;

And that it otherwise protect the powers of municipalities to use public procurement, services and investment tools to create local jobs, protect the environment, and support local development;

And that a specific exemption for mass transit be requested;

And that this resolution be sent to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, area MPs and MPPS.

The long-anticipated vote was supported locally by the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council and follows a presentation to city council this May by CAW Economist Jim Stanford.

Jim Stanford, CAW economist

Jim Stanford, CAW economist

According to TBNewsWatch.com at the time, “Stanford warned that if Canada went ahead with the CETA deal then municipalities like Thunder Bay would be negatively impacted. He said that the procurement rules would hurt local companies and used Bombardier as an example. He estimated the trade agreement could cost the city more than a 1000 jobs and possible put 3000 jobs in the region at risk if Bombardier were to close.”

The Chronicle-Journal newspaper endorsed the idea of an exemption for a few reasons, including the possibility that water services and other municipally delivered services would be fully liberalized. But removing economic options from municipalities was the main factor.

“Say Thunder Bay wanted to create or fund innovation in green technology or some other new market,” said an editorial on July 23. “If the effect would favour Canadian producers or even if a municipal investment would attract outside investment to Canada, the initiative would be illegal. So much for helping good, startup industries…

“City council should certainly resist this initiative and seek an exemption from CETA the way other Canadian municipalities have done. We and they should hope that the secretive CETA talks have not already precluded this.”

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.