OTTAWA, ONTARIO – The Council of Canadians and Canadian Union of Public Employees have released a briefing note on recently leaked documents related to ongoing Canada-European Union free trade negotiations. The documents show that Canada and the provinces have failed to protect drinking water and wastewater services from trade rules that would encourage and lock in privatization.
The documents, made public yesterday by the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC) and the Trade Justice Network, show Canada's initial services and investment offers to the EU in ongoing Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations. They list policy areas or sectors that are to be spared from liberalization, which can be understood as deregulation or re-regulation on market-based terms favourable to multinational investment. Water services are not on the list, which means they are automatically included in the deal.
"The two biggest private water utilities in the world are European and eager to use CETA to gain access to Canada's still public water systems,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson with the Council of Canadians. “Harper's message to these companies is that Canada is ‘open for business’ when it comes to water privatization. The very notion of water as a public good and a human right is at stake."
"Canadians hold a great deal of trust in publicly owned, operated and delivered water and sanitation systems," says CUPE National President Paul Moist. "Water and other essential services like health care, public transit, postal services and energy are vital to our communities. If European negotiators are prepared to protect those sectors why isn't Canada? We need to debate this deal right now."
CUPE and the Council of Canadians are asking, at the very least, that provincial governments correct their mistake by fully excluding drinking water and wastewater services from their Canada-EU trade offers. The organizations also urge the provinces to withhold their support for the CETA negotiations until the public and opposition parties have had a chance to study and make revisions to these offers and the broader Canada-EU agreement. There could be many other areas, for example public transit, health care, education, among others, which should be protected but which the provinces have not carved out of the CETA.
The leak is bound to embarrass the Prime Minister who will be promoting the Canada-EU trade talks while in Davos this week at the World Economic Forum.
To see the leaked offers: tradejustice.ca.