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WIN! Essex County, Ontario demands that municipalities be excluded from CETA

Last night, Council of Canadians Windsor Chapter activists Doug Hayes and Randy Emerson presented to Essex County Council on the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The County comprises seven municipalities in southwestern Ontario which straddle the Windsor-Detroit border region. As a result of their presentation, Essex County Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution demanding a total municipal exemption from any procurement commitments in CETA.

To date at least 18 municipalities, school boards or associations in five provinces have passed CETA resolutions. Most of them call for cities, towns, school boards, universities and hospitals to be excluded from the agreement to preserve their freedom to use public spending in creative ways to support local development or protect the environment. CETA’s procurement chapter would ban “Buy Local” policies or any “offsets” designed to extract local benefits out of large infrastructure or service contracts.

In the CETA resolutions, municipal councils are also calling for more transparency from the federal and provincial governments, which have been tightlipped about their commitments to European Union negotiators. Last July, during an eighth round of CETA negotiations in Brussels, the provinces and territories tabled what the Harper government called “very ambitious” procurement offers with the EU. We don’t know what that means because the offers are secret: no one is asking municipalities or the public how far we should go for a trade deal with the EU that looks worse and worse!

For example, a final sustainability impact assessment of CETA, which was presented to the EU by a private firm in August, says Canada’s GDP would rise by as little as 0.18 per cent and no more than 0.36 per cent. That is one quarter to half of what the Harper government has been promising (0.77 per cent, or $12 billion in annual gains). Does Harper really expect municipalities to sacrifice an important tool for economic and social development for as little as $3 billion?

Municipalities are asking for over $130 billion in badly needed infrastructure money. You could create far more economic activity in Canada by attaching creative local procurement conditions to stimulus spending on water, energy and other upgrades. The free trade model Harper is pursuing just doesn’t add up.

Thanks to presentations like the one by Doug and Randy in Essex County last night, CETA has gone from curiosity to major issue for local councils across Canada. We need to continue to encourage our cities, towns and school boards to demand a complete exemption as the best way to protect local democracy.

See our CETA resolution toolkit for information on how you can help in your community.