CETA and communities: Stop the sell-out!

In September 2014 then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and officials from the European Union signed a joint declaration to “celebrate the end of negotiations of the Canada-EU Trade Agreement.” The official text of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was released on the same day, giving citizens their first look at the agreement since negotiations began in May 2009.

Leaks and other information about the negotiations indicated that Canadian negotiators were failing to protect important policy space for local governments. The final version of CETA confirms this.

How does CETA impact local communities?

The official CETA text reveals that negotiators have ignored the requests of more than 50 Canadian municipalities to be excluded from CETA, and that the Harper government has given in to European demands and negotiated away critical municipal powers in a number of areas.

Canada has agreed to unprecedented access to almost all public procurement by all levels of government, including municipalities, academic institutions, school boards, and hospitals (the MASH sector). With few exceptions, local governments, utilities and other MASH sector entities will be prohibited from applying local content requirements, local training or hiring quotas, or any other “offsets” – defined in CETA as “any condition or undertaking that encourages local development” – in their procurement decisions.

CETA’s investment chapter significantly restricts the ability of local governments to introduce new public services or to bring already privatized services back into the public sphere without risking costly legal challenges under the chapter’s investor-state dispute settlement provisions.

CETA’s domestic regulation chapter also compromises local governments’ right to regulate by imposing novel and strict disciplines on licensing and qualification requirements and procedures. The broad definitions related to regulations could extend even to development and building permits and municipal zoning decisions.

What can be done?

More than 50 communities, including Toronto, Lasbhurn, Victoria, Baie Comeau, Sackville, Hamilton, Burnaby, Red Deer and others, sent a clear message to the federal and provincial governments that “buy local” and other public spending policies, as well as municipally-delivered public services like water, should be excluded from CETA (see map below). The final CETA text released in 2014 reveals that Canadian negotiators have almost completely ignored these concerns.

Blue: Passed resolution in city/town; Yellow: Proposed resolution; Red: Passed resolution by school board or association; Purple: Seeking exemption
View the larger MAP: Take Cities out of CETA and read resolution details. Download a text/print version here.
Please help us keep the map up-to-date by sending us your local resolutions at inquiries@canadians.org.

CETA faces a long and uncertain ratification process of two years or more. Opposition in Europe to parts of CETA continues to grow.

Now that the text of CETA has finally been made public, we must call on those local governments that asked to be excluded from the agreement to demand answers from the provincial and federal governments.

We also have to work to ensure that all municipalities are aware of the sweeping impacts CETA will have on local governance.

Municipal governments should also insist on broad and meaningful public consultations in Canada on whether or not the federal government should sign and ratify CETA.

Finally, municipal governments must be called on to make it clear to the federal and provincial governments that since their longstanding requests to be excluded from CETA have been ignored, they don’t intend to be bound by the agreement and will not be responsible for the costs of any investor-state challenges resulting from CETA should it ever enter into force.

Latest Information

Full official CETA final agreement text

Making Sense of the CETA: An analysis of the final text of the Canada–European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, September 2014)

Background Information

Sample CETA resolution for municipalities (November, 2013)

Technical Summary of Final Negotiated Outcomes (Federal government document, October 29, 2013)

Major leak from Canada-EU trade talks; municipalities fully covered by procurement restrictions (November 2012)

Leaked “landing zone” document from the European Commission, showing full coverage of municipalities in CETA (November 2012)

Is CETA Good for Cities? Debunking the myths about the benefits of EU-Canada free trade, backgrounder from the Trade Justice Network (April 2012)

Municipalities and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a Trade and Economic Policy update from the Centre for Civic Governance (Winter 2011)

Municipalities, Progressive Purchasing Policies and the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a briefing note from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (June 2011)

A legal opinion of CETA's procurement chapter by trade lawyer Steven Shrybman (May 2011)

Making Waves out of Ripples, a defense of local preferences on government procurement by Brendan Reimer, Canadian Community Economic Development Network (August 2010)