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Win! Peterborough, Niagara Falls and Oakville pass CETA motions

Add Peterborough, Niagara Falls and Oakville (all in Ontario) to the list of cities to pass motions calling for more input into ongoing Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations.

The most recent is from Peterborough where last night city council unanimously passed a Council of Canadians-endorsed motion asking:

a) That Council pass a resolution, attached as Appendix A, endorsing the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) principles for negotiations relating to CETA in order to address municipal concerns in relation to trade deals; and

b) That Council request the Province of Ontario to provide further information to municipalities with regards to procurement thresholds, local procurement needs and dispute resolution mechanisms.

c) That the City of Peterborough advise the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario that it remains concerned about any agreement that could reduce or eliminate the right to specify local priorities as permitted when public money is invested in goods or services; and that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario make every effort to protect or require local and Canadian content as a key component of any agreement.

The Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter, in particular chapter representative and board member Roy Brady, has been engaged with local leaders on trade issues for some time. Chapter members wrote frequently to their councillors about the impact trade agreements like CETA, NAFTA and interprovincial deals can have on public policy. Last night, city council took those concerns to heart by passing the above motion.

The good news comes just one week after the Oakville and District Labour Council announced Oakville had also passed a CETA motion, this one calling for “direct dialogue” with the Ontario government and more information on how the agreement will affect the city’s interests.

“Oakville is asking for greater transparency and information and that’s the very least our federal and provincial governments can provide,” said ODLC President Dave Millar in a press statement.

Two days later, CAW informed groups challenging the Canada-EU trade negotiations that Niagara Falls has also passed a motion recently, this one demanding, in part, “That Ontario issue a clear, permanent exemption for the Regional Municipality of Niagara from the Canada-EU CETA, and it 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, protect the environment, and support local development.”

Even when these CETA motions fall short of calling for a complete exemption for local governments, they put the negotiations on the agenda locally in a way the Harper government and provinces are trying to avoid. They are clearly having an impact.

The business lobby group most interested in completing this deal with the EU — the Canada-Europe Business Roundtable, or CERT — derided Toronto city councillors in a recent Toronto Star op-ed, referring to their support for a municipal exemption from CETA as “a misguided outcome based on falsehoods being peddled by groups that don’t understand how trade and investment agreements work.” CERT president then goes on to peddle some falsehoods of his own, namely that there are remarkable benefits to cities from “opening” an already largely open European market for Canadian goods and services.

Sources in Europe tell us Canadian government officials and negotiators are also dismissive of municipal concerns when asked about the over 50 motions that have been passed across Canada, as Canada’s lead negotiator was by the EU parliamentary trade committee last month. The official aloofness won’t cut it down the road if cities and towns have spoken up and been ignored.

For example, Hamilton city council asked for some say in whether it will have to abide by CETA procurement rules or not. There could be political consequences for the McGuinty government for not obliging that reasonable request, especially given his minority position in the legislature. Also, the desire to seek more information about the CETA negotiations is not going away. Whitehorse, Yukon is considering a motion seeking exemption and there will undoubtedly be others in the coming months.

Next steps in the CETA negotiations, from what we know, include another mini-round of negotiations this month in either Ottawa or Brussels before the process goes political and difficult trade-offs will be made at the ministerial level. As I wrote earlier, the chances of an agreement being signed before the summer are slim and we’ll let you know as soon as we know any more about timing.

Congratulations to Roy and the Peterborough chapter, and the many others who have put CETA on the agenda locally and provincially! If you’d like to help out or see a list of municipal resolutions, see our campaign page here.