Trade activists grill Quebec election candidates on Canada-EU trade deal

The Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale (RQIC) has sent a questionnaire on the Canada-EU trade negotiations to political parties competing in the Quebec election. The network says it is worried that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has not yet become an election issue, and it is asking parties to make their views on the proposed treaty known before electors go to the polls on September 4.

"For the first time, provincial and municipal governance will be subject to the constraints and clauses of an international trade deal and we're acting as if this will have no considerable consequences on our social, political or economic existence in Quebec. This is unacceptable," says Claude Vaillancourt, a spokesperson for RQIC and President of ATTAC-Quebec. (Translations mine.)

"Certain parties as well as social movements have raised serious concerns about CETA over the past months.  Québec Solidaire reflects these concerns in its platform while the Liberal Party of Quebec, a big promoter of CETA, includes the deal in its economic plan. But the other parties need to publicly state their positions."

An RQIC press release on its questionnaire to party leaders mentions that according to recent studies from both the Institut de recherche en économie contemporaine (IRÉC) and CUPE, CETA is a highly imbalanced agreement for Quebec and in fact all provinces. The EU is trying to protect the powers of its member states and municipalities to regulate and legislate on matters of public services and public monopolies -- at least it's doing a much better job than the provinces.  Only Ontario is trying to keep control and protect policy flexibility in the area of renewable power, says RQIC, which is asking 10 questions of political parties vying for office in the Quebec elections.

Those questions include:

- Will you agree to make the text of CETA public and allow for a frank, transparent and democratic debate prior to Canada signing the deal?

- Do you support the inclusion in CETA of an investor-state dispute settlement process which would allow foreign investors to sue governments and to challenge public health and environmental policies?

- How will you ensure that public services and public procurement is protected, and assure that the search for profits by European firms does not displace the interests of the users of public services or the interests of Quebec's workers?

- To what extent should municipal water services be protected in CETA?

- Does your party support a general exemption for health services that stipulates that nothing in CETA should be interpreted in any way to apply to the provision of health or health insurance?

- Does your party support extending patent terms for pharmaceutical products that would delay the introduction of generic competition, as supported by the European Commission and the Canadian and Quebec brand name drug lobby?

- Will your party push for a general cultural exemption in CETA for book publishing, magazines, news, broadcasting, film, video, performance art and all other aspects of Quebec's cultural industry?

- What will your party do if supply management is not entirely safeguarded in CETA?

- Will your party obtain a guarantee that the province will maintain the right to screen foreign investment to make sure it brings a net benefit to the citizens of Quebec?

- Finally, if rigorous analysis of CETA and its clauses concludes that the deal will bring a net disadvantage for the people of Quebec, or compromise the province's power to legislate in the public interest, will you promise to reject the deal?

Vaillancourt asks, "What good are electoral promises if CETA risks impeding their realization? If nothing is done to adequately protect our public services, health insurance, education, public transit and local jobs? if we give private European firms unprecedented control or say over public contracts without being able to favour local companies or local jobs in general?

We hope RQIC gets answers to these questions and will post them here if they do.