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Nelson asks to be excluded from CETA on eve of high level Canada-EU trade meeting

On eve of high level Canada-EU trade meeting, Council of Canadians celebrates vote for transparency and democracy

Nelson, B.C. – The Council of Canadians and its Nelson chapter are celebrating a decision by City Council last night to demand a permanent exemption for the City from the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Over 40 municipal councils, school boards or associations, including large cities like Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga and Victoria, have sought similar protections.

“We congratulate the City of Nelson for standing up for local jobs and local democracy. This resolution comes at an pivotal moment with European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht meeting with Trade Minister Ed Fast over the next two days to try and seal the deal,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “The truth is there’s no benefit to Canadian municipalities for being shackled by international trade restrictions on their local policy and spending powers. Cities are Harper's bargaining chips in these EU negotiations – they should have a right to say no to CETA.”

Last night, Nelson councillors voted to ask the federal government for exemption from CETA if it doesn’t conform to seven guidelines from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

As written, the CETA procurement rules would forbid a city, town, school board or other body included in the deal from preferring one bidding firm over another based on how much of the content in a certain project was local or Canadian. CETA would also ban municipalities from considering local development benefits when choosing between different bidding firms, whether they were Canadian or European. It’s up to the Province of British Columbia to decide whether Nelson and other cities will be bound by these rules.

“It doesn’t make sense for a province like B.C. to take away important job-creating tools from its cities,” says Barlow. “Public procurement is one of the last places where a local government can play a role in fostering sustainable, local development. To take that away will only benefit multinational corporations that can already outbid local firms and that will get new tools in CETA to challenge local decisions that don’t go their way.”

“Cities will also lose out if Harper agrees to pharmaceutical intellectual property rights changes that are guaranteed to increase the cost of public drug plans and the cost of drugs,” notes Stuart Trew, Trade Campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

Canada and the EU have held over 10 rounds of comprehensive trade and investment negotiations since October 2010 with smaller talks scheduled in the coming months. The Council of Canadians is one of over 60 organizations in Canada and Quebec calling on the provinces and territories to provide an outlet for public dialogue on the actual content of the CETA negotiations prior to a final deal being signed at some point in 2013.