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UPDATE: TJN demands answers on CETA during provincial elections

As it did during this year’s federal election, the Trade Justice Network has sent a questionnaire to aspiring leadership candidates in provincial and territorial elections happening now across Canada. These include Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Yukon, and Newfoundland and Labrador, with the writ expected to drop in Saskatchewan any day now. The questions attempt to gauge how comfortable the major provincial-territorial parties are with ongoing Canada-EU free trade negotiations. The Trade Justice Network reminds party leaders (none too subtly) that a ninth and possibly final round of CETA negotiations is only weeks away. It goes against our notions of democracy that the provinces and territories are expected to make decisions now, in the middle of elections, which will restrict the types of social, economic and environmental policies new governments will be able to make.

The Council of Canadians spells out what’s at stake in a recent action alert demanding transparency from the provinces and territories, and a halt to CETA negotiations while elections are happening. The action explains:

Procurement, or the money our municipalities, school boards, provincial Crown corporations and utilities spend on public contracts, is the EU’s first priority in the CETA talks with Canada. If concluded, a deal would ban these public bodies from favouring local or small-busiiness bidders even when the tendering process was completely transparent and fair. The procurement chapter in CETA would remove one of the last remaining tools our local communities have to foster sustainable, local development.

Services and investment commitments could include promises to liberalize (i.e. encourage more privatization of) drinking water or sanitation services, or to chip away at the relatively weak protections in NAFTA for public health care. They could make it impossible to put local investment conditions on major foreign takeovers such as local production and job targets in US Steel’s takeover of Stelco. The provincial offers we are not allowed to see could also remove foreign ownership caps on so-called strategic industries such as fishing and finance.

Whatever your position on these issues, it’s hard to argue that provincial or territorial cabinets should have the exclusive authority to make a final decision – in some cases as people head to the polls, and where some governments might not survive their upcoming elections.

To read the Trade Justice Network questionnaire and see the responses to it, visit tradejustice.ca.

To write to party leaders today demanding them to stop CETA negotiations and make the provincial-territorial CETA offers public, use our action alert.