Council of Canadians Atlantic regional organizer Angela Giles reports that more than 200 people have gathered in Halifax this evening to hear Council chairperson Maude Barlow, CUPE president Paul Moist, and Mark Austin (executive director of the Rural and Coastal Communities Network) speak about the threats posed by the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
Beyond those from Halifax, the audience also includes people from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island who came on a bus organized by CUPE New Brunswick president Danny Legere.
Also in the audience tonight – the Official Opposition’s environment critic Megan Leslie (who is from Halifax) and trade critic Robert Chisholm (from Dartmouth). After the event Chisholm Tweeted, “Thanks Cupe’s Paul Moist, Maude Barlow and Austin for a great presentation on CETA. Good crowd too!”
Earlier this afternoon, Barlow was interviewed by Radio News 95.7 and CBC Radio Mainstreet. Giles notes that there are two newspaper reporters (including one from The Coast) at tonight’s event as well.
The Coast reports that Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow said, “Why has this gone under the radar screen for so long? The Harper government does not want us doing what we’re doing tonight. They don’t want us talking to each other and putting out fact sheets because they know when we find out what’s in these agreements, we’re not going to like them.” Barlow adds, “CETA is a grab for resources. The European Union is in a race with China to get at the remaining raw materials of the world and as you know, we’re running out of absolutely everything from fish in the sea to old growth forests, to minerals, you name it.” The news report also notes, “Barlow says CETA could give multinational corporations the right to sue local and provincial governments that refuse to let them bid on local projects effectively privatizing public services. It could also extend patent protection for brand-name prescription drugs — a move that would boost drug prices in Canada by an estimated $2.8 billion a year.”
“Maude Barlow told the Halifax meeting that the government’s real motives for pursuing an economic agreement with the European Union are ideological. She argued the Conservatives believe in giving big companies more rights and they also believe that governments at all levels should pursue more public-private partnerships in providing basic services and social programs. Barlow added the Conservatives are trying to use CETA as a lever to prevent the Europeans from classifying the Alberta tar sands as ‘dirty oil’ and they’re hoping the EU will drop its restrictions on Canadian genetically modified food crops.”
“As an example of what could happen if big European companies are given government procurement rights, Barlow told a story about two Ontario hospitals. She said the Kingston General decided to get its hospital food from a European company that employs 430,000 people and serves four billion meals a year, mostly to schools and hospitals.”
Barlow said, “They put them in these vacuum-packed, heavy, heavy plastic and they don’t need refrigeration and they can last for three weeks. (The food is then trucked 300 kilometres from Toronto to Kingston.) The local farmers don’t get to supply the Kingston General, the local workers, of course, have lost their jobs or will lose them through attrition. Scarborough General has gone the exact opposite way. They say, ‘we can bring in cheaper than that good local food made here, we can create jobs’ and they’ve got a procurement stipulation that they will only take, wherever possible, local food and organic food and they are making wonderful food. I mean you want to check yourself into the Scarborough General just to eat the food. If CETA is passed here how it affects both. For the Scarborough General, they would not be allowed to have those procurement rules because they could not ‘discriminate’ against foreign suppliers. And if the Kingston General were to change its mind and try to follow the Scarborough example the hospital would have to pay compensation to the company. We know we have to get back to more local, sustainable production of our food and our goods. Nobody’s saying there won’t be trade. I eat bananas and I don’t think we’re going to grow them here anytime soon…it’s not just about CETA, but it’s about a model of unlimited growth that is killing the planet and creating deep inequality and we can stop it.”