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Municipal opposition grows to Canada-EU trade pact

OTTAWA, ONTARIO – As the Harper government pushes to wrap up trade talks with the European Union, there is growing concern in Canadian municipalities representing nearly four million citizens about the dangers of the new deal.

Canadian trade negotiators are in Brussels this week and next for an 11th round of talks on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Last week, councillors in Toronto and Thorold, Ontario joined 26 other municipalities in calling for exemptions from CETA, and for a full public debate on the pact. Another 23 communities have expressed concern about CETA restrictions on local government powers. Together, these municipalities represent almost four million Canadians.

The far-reaching deal would for the first time bind municipalities to controversial international rules affecting how local governments spend public money. Local content or local hiring policies attached to contracts, or occasional "Buy Canadian" rules would be banned outright.

"This opposition will increase, as more Canadians learn the truth about this secret deal. We demand a halt to negotiations and full disclosure of what Canada and the provinces are trading away at the table, when it comes to public services like water, and public policy-making like local job creation," says CUPE National President Paul Moist.

There has been no public discussion of CETA's implications – and what has been leaked about the deal is not reassuring. CUPE and the Council of Canadians organized a cross-country tour last fall to shine a spotlight on the problems with CETA.

"There is a clear message from the citizens we met in every community. Canadians want their municipal governments to make decisions in the public interest when it comes to local job creation, local purchasing, and environmental protection. Canadians also don't want a deal that encourages more privatization of public services like water, health care and postal services," says Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow.

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