Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and trade campaigner Stuart Trew write in an op-ed in today’s Ottawa Citizen that, “The Buy American breakthrough announced by the Harper government yesterday is anything but. Canadian companies have secured very little new access to U.S. public infrastructure spending and at a large cost to public policy space for Canadian provinces and cities. It is an ideological rather than an economic coup for a government whose real goals are weakening public services and reducing the role of government across the country.”
They add, “Stephen Harper is trying to convince Canadians that by including the provinces in the World Trade Organization’s government procurement agreement, as trade minister Peter Van Loan announced yesterday, Canadian suppliers will get sweeping new access to contracts to which they were previously excluded by these Buy American conditions. Nothing could be further from the truth. A recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report explains that this will not get Canadian businesses access to federally-funded mass transit or highway construction projects, which the U.S. has exempted from its WTO commitments. They cannot supply public utility services such as telecommunications, nor will they have access to contracts by the 13 states which have made no commitments at the WTO. Even in the 37 states that have signed on, the report states, Canadian suppliers will not be allowed to supply construction-grade steel, vehicles, coal, or printing. And municipal governments in the U.S. are exempt completely.”
And with most of the stimulus money already allocated, “what is Harper playing at with this lopsided agreement? We believe the Buy American controversy provided Harper and the provinces, who are actively engaged in ambitious free-trade talks with Europe, with an opportunity to restructure the Canadian economy to reduce the role of our communities in setting spending priorities. Subnational procurement — public spending by our local governments and their utilities — represents up to $200 billion in Canada. Much of that goes toward services delivered publicly, such as water and electricity. Ceding control over how our governments spend public money makes it all the easier for companies to push privatization.”
“Harper (has) negotiated a secret deal with the provinces and once again excluded Canadians from the debate. We should be outraged by this deal, not impressed.”
“This deal is not a breakthrough, just another assault on democracy by the Harper government.”
Their full op-ed can be read at http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/celebrate+this+deal/2531335/story.html.