Ottawa —The Council of Canadians says that Newfoundland & Labrador Premier Paul Davis should commit to holding public hearings in the province prior to making the final decision on whether or not to support the controversial trade agreement with the European Union.
The proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has come under fire in the province since it emerged last week that the Harper government was reneging on its promise of a $280 million contribution to a fisheries transition fund to compensate Newfoundland and Labrador for lifting its minimum processing requirements on fish products exported to the EU.
“Premier Davis said it best himself when he stated that Stephen Harper ‘can’t be trusted’ on CETA, but federal backtracking on the promise of a transition fund is just the tip of iceberg with this dangerous agreement,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “The citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador have the right to know all the details of what’s in this agreement and what other promises have been made by the federal government, and they deserve to have a say in whether or not Premier Davis should ultimately support the deal.”
Despite being under negotiation for five years, Canadians only got their first look at the official text of the CETA on September 26, the same day the deal was announced as concluded and final. The deal is now in the process of legal review and translation, and the ratification process is expected to stretch into at least 2016.
“The official text makes it clear that CETA will have far-ranging and negative impacts on the provinces,” adds Scott Harris, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “We know the costs of pharmaceuticals will go up, we know that provinces and municipalities will lose the ability to make purchasing decisions that support local jobs, and we know that government measures at all levels will be at risk under the investor-state dispute settlement process. A lively debate on CETA is taking place in Europe, and it’s long past time for Canadians to also hear and have the opportunity to debate the real facts about CETA, not just listen to the federal government’s spin.”
“If the federal fisheries fund fiasco has proven one thing, it’s that people care deeply about how this agreement will impact communities across this province,” says Newfoundland and Labrador-based Council of Canadians board member Ken Kavanagh. “If Premier Davis is serious about standing up for the best interests of this province, he needs to commit to having an honest conversation about all the implications of CETA and to giving the people of Newfoundland and Labrador a real say in whether or not they want this agreement.”
An Environics poll commissioned by the Council of Canadians following the October 2013 announcement that an agreement-in-principle on CETA had been reached found that 80% of Canadians, and 84% of people living in Atlantic Canada, agreed that the federal government should have to hold public hearings across Canada before it can sign and ratify the deal.