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UPDATE: The Council counters the G20 agenda on economic recovery, the Tobin tax and democratic governance

The G8 will be meeting in Huntsville on June 25-26, followed by the G20 meeting in Toronto on June 26-27.

What will be on the agenda?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, “As hosts, our government will have considerable say over the agenda. It will be a tremendous opportunity to promote Canada’s values and interests; to advocate for open markets and trade opportunities; to assist on global action against global warming; and to champion values like freedom, democracy and human rights and the rule of law.”

The Council of Canadians believes that the G8 and G20 will be promoting a ‘business as usual’ agenda rather than what is needed, namely trade, climate and water justice.

Economic recovery, banking regulations, global security, the spread of nuclear weapons, and other security concerns are likely to be discussed at these summits.

In terms of economic recovery, the G20 has already sidelined a more meaningful and inclusive discussion on the economy needed at the United Nations. UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, who appointed Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow as his senior adviser on water, convened a critical United Nations conference on ‘the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development’ on June 24-26, 2009. The president’s website stated, “The aim (of the conference) is to identify emergency and long-term responses to mitigate the impact of the crisis, especially on vulnerable populations, and initiate a needed dialogue on the transformation of the international financial architecture, taking into account the needs and concerns of all Member States.” Diplomats from the G-20 called the summit a ‘joke’, a ‘tragedy’ and a ‘waste of time’.

It has also been reported that, “The International Monetary Fund will present concrete proposals for (a Tobin) tax (on global financial transactions) next April to finance ministers of the Group of 20 leading economies, for review before submission to G20 leaders in June.” That said, Canada, the United States, and the IMF have already stated that they oppose such a tax.

More than ten years ago – in an open letter to all Members of Parliament – the Council of Canadians supported the call for a Tobin tax. In 1999, the House of Commons passed a resolution directing the government to “enact a tax on financial transactions in concert with the international community,” but the government took little action on the matter. Such a fund could now be used to support needed spending on access to clean water and climate debt.

The Council of Canadians also questions the exclusivity of the G8 and G20 institutions, and in opposition to these constructs supports (despite its various challenges and failings) the broader based body of the United Nations, also referred to now more often as the G-192.

The Council of Canadians
In Huntsville we will be facing a $6-million galvanized metal fence that will stretch 15-kilometres around the summit site. In Toronto, it is expected that the convention centre will be surrounded by a 4-metre high steel and concrete fence, with military helicopters overhead and sharpshooters on rooftops (as was the case with the G7 summit there in 1988). Thousands of reporters from around the world are expected to converge to report on the summits from their base at the Congress Centre near Toronto’s international airport.

So far, our plans include holding a protest in Huntsville on Friday June 25 and a major public forum with Maude Barlow and other high-profile international speakers at Convocation Hall in Toronto that evening. We will take part in a major family-friendly march against the G20 on the afternoon of Saturday June 26. We will also be participating in workshops and forums at the Peoples Summit taking place in Toronto the weekend of June 18-20. We also expect to be raising our concerns when the G8 foreign ministers meet at the Château Cartier in Gatineau, Quebec on March 29-30.