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The Trudeau Liberals on trade, climate, water & health care

The Council of Canadians campaigns for fair trade, climate justice, water protection, and public health care. With the Liberals now almost one year into their mandate, how are they doing on these files?

TRADE – During the election, the Liberals promised “a full and open public debate in Parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted” on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In one sense they have kept this promise, the House of Commons standing committee on international trade has held extensive consultations across the country. But Trudeau also says the party “strongly supports free trade” and that the TPP would “increase opportunities for our middle class and those working hard to join it” (even though the evidence says that’s not true). It remains to be seen what will happen here, but the Liberals are facing a November 2017 deadline to ratify the agreement.

The Liberals are also now pushing hard to get the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) ratified in Europe by early next year, and have committed to exploratory talks on a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement.

CLIMATE – During the election, the Liberals also promised to “establish national emissions-reduction targets” that recognize the consequences of “a greater-than-two-degree increase” in global temperatures. They later said that Harper government’s weak emission reduction target was a floor “not a ceiling” of what they would do. Unfortunately, environment minister Catherine McKenna is now saying, “What I said is that we will at least meeting the target”. In other words they are, at this point, only committing to Harper’s goal of a 14 per cent reduction below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – and not a target based on climate science.

The Liberals have also delayed on a promise to phase out billions of dollars in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and have extended a $50 million-over-five-years tax cut to spur the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in British Columbia. They have also approved the carbon-intensive Pacific NorthWest and Woodfibre LNG projects. And while it’s possible they will say no to the 525,000 barrel per day Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline this month, it is widely believed that they will say yes to the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in December.

WATER – The Liberals criticized the Harper government’s “elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act” and promised to “review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards”. There was hope this would mean that the Trudeau government might, as a first step, immediately restore protections for the 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers that were delisted in the Navigation Protection Act. That hasn’t happened and now Liberal MP Kate Young, who is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport, is suggesting an upcoming review of the Act will be on the listed waterways and whether or not more “should be added”.

The Liberals are open to approving both the Trans Mountain and Energy East pipelines. The Trans Mountain pipeline would cross 246 watercourses in Alberta and 1,063 watercourses in British Columbia. The Energy East pipeline would cross nearly 3,000 water bodies and more than 5 million people draw their drinking water from sources within spill range and downstream of its route. We saw the result of the Husky oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River. Serious water protection measures are not currently in place and are desperately needed.

HEALTH CARE – Given the Harper government refused to negotiate a new Health Accord (with a 6 per cent escalator) and instead imposed a new funding formula that could mean more than $36 billion will not be transferred from the federal government to provincial governments over the next ten years for health care, it was welcomed when the Liberals promised to “negotiate a new Health Accord with provinces and territories” as well as a “long-term agreement on funding”. But earlier this month the Trudeau government said it would implement the Harper government’s funding formula. Health minister Jane Philpott says, “I do not intend to push for an increase in the escalator”.

The Liberals have also said pharmacare is too expensive and not a part of their mandate this term, while at the same time they push for the ratification of CETA. Studies show that the patent provisions for pharmaceutical drugs in CETA could cost us between $850 million to $1.65 billion annually, while pharmacare would save about $14 billion a year.

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