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WIN! Hamilton, Ontario calls for exemption from Canada-EU trade deal

AMO Website

Hamilton City Hall, Source: AMO Website

Last night at about 10:15 p.m., Hamilton city council became the 35th municipality or municipal body to pass a resolution challenging the inclusion of local governments in the Canada-EU free trade agreement. The resolution, brought forward by Councillor Brian McHattie, was cheered by a dozen Hamilton Council of Canadians members who were there for the vote. Only three councillors voted against the motion, which also asks the provincial government to make its services, procurement and investment offers public, and to give municipalities the freedom to choose whether they want to be bound by the CETA or not. (See page 18 of this document.)

“CETA could have significant impacts on the City’s ability to encourage sustainable development, local jobs or local food production through purchases by the City, school boards and hospitals,” says Hamilton chapter spokesperson Kathie Clark in a media release this morning. Dave Carson, also of the chapter, says, “There is little transparency around these talks. It is in our communities’ interests to ensure that future local policy options aren’t open to challenge by large, multi-national corporations.”

The Hamilton chapter explains that, “The Council of Canadians believes that not every spending decision at the local level should come down to bottom line costs. There are economic, social and environmental benefits to buying and hiring locally. CETA would take the ability to make these decisions away from democratically elected municipal governments. The EU’s challenge to the Ontario Green Energy Act at the World Trade Organizations shows how it will use trade and procurement agreements to undermine job creation strategies.”

The Council of Canadians has produced a new interactive map showing all the cities in eight provinces that have passed CETA resolutions. Most of them call for an exemption for local governments. The Hamilton resolution goes much further in calling for transparency and a real voice for municipal governments to choose whether or not they want to be bound by the trade deal’s restrictions on policy space. You can search the map, which includes cities like Toronto that are considering CETA resolutions, by clicking here.

On January 24, Toronto’s executive committee will consider a motion similar to the one passed by Hamilton last night, asking the province to exclude the City of Toronto from the CETA and “otherwise protect the powers of municipalities, hospitals, school boards, utilities, universities and other sub-federal agencies to use public procurement, services and investment as tools to create local jobs and otherwise support local economic development.” We’ll have more updates on that soon.

A BUY LOCAL POLICY FOR HAMILTON?

Also in the audience last night were members of the Hamilton and District Labour Council who came to see how city council would vote on a motion to defer a new procurement policy back to committee for further discussion. The labour council explains on its website:

The Audit, Finance and Administration Committee of Hamilton City Council has approved a staff recommended procurement policy for the city that specifically states that the city will not give any preference to purchases based on the geographic location of the vendor or supplier or the Canadian, Ontario, or Hamilton/local content of the goods and services.

Over two and one half years ago, a similar policy was referred back to staff for consultation with the community, including the Labour Council, our affiliates, and other unions, after Labour Council, the CAW, and the Steelworkers raised the issue of Canadian and local sourcing of goods and services required by the city. The Labour Council has not been consulted at all.

On December 14th, City Council will consider the recommendations from the committee. We urgently request that everyone who is interested in preserving jobs in Hamilton use every means of communication – email, telephone calls, social media – to tell your city councillor to refer the policy back to the committee to allow for public input on creating a buy local provision.

The motion passed, meaning the labour council and other community members will have a chance to address what a specific buy local policy within the procurement policy could look like.

For those in the Hamilton area, the local chapter meets again Wednesday, December 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. in Homegown Hamilton at the Sky Dragon Community Centre, 27 King William Street.

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