System Change

American flagOur American friends have an unashamedly two party system.  In spite of the fact third parties keep popping up.  The two parties relentlessly insist such parties have no chance of winning, a mantra that is repeated over and over in the media.   The main stream media helps make this a reality by excluding small parties and their presidential candidates from televised debates and news coverage, except in attack journalism.

So is it any wonder that almost half the eligible voters did not vote in the American election?

When the two parties put forth the two most reviled candidates in history, I imagine many voters had no motivation to vote for either of them.  No one has the right to order other people how to vote, and then blame them if they don’t vote as they’ve been told. Not in democracy.  And yet I saw that happen over and over on social media.   Is Trump as bad as they say?  We don’t *know* yet.   I can’t imagine anyone whose own water was being destroyed by fracking would vote Clinton. I can’t imagine people whose local economy skipped down to Mexico thanks to Free Trade voting for Mrs. Clinton either. Poor white voters (racist or not) are not the only people who voted for Mr. Trump. The status quo has not been working for much of the 99%, and I think it may be worse there than here.

Why would you vote if you are convinced you can’t vote for who you want?

If the only candidates you are allowed to vote for don’t represent you, why vote?  Especially if it meant standing in line for hours surrounded by belligerent voters.   (You know the ones I mean, the ones in either party who might end up in the streets afterwards burning the American Flag and chanting #notmypresident.)

Before the election, Democratic supporters were angry and offended by suggestions that Trump supporters wouldn’t accept the result if they lost.  But as it happened, their candidate was the one who lost, so now they are in the streets burning effigies of the President elect.

With near half the electorate abstaining, the reality is approximately 25% of voters voted for Mrs. Clinton— who lost— and approximately 25% of voters voted for Mr. Trump— who won.  In what appears to be the final tally, Mrs. Clinton — appears to have won 668,483 more votes than President-elect Trump.   When you have a winner take all system, the losers are never happy with the result.  Particularly when only a few thousand votes separated the two.  Especially if the loser failed to win the popular vote.

Incredibly, the thing isn’t actually over yet.  A few states might still challenge the vote count, and something on the order of 4 million Americans are petitioning the Electoral College to overturn the election result in December.

But this is how the American system works.

I think there are plenty of things wrong with the American system, just as I think there are plenty of things wrong with ours here in Canada.  No electoral system is perfect, but one of the worst things about winner take all politics is the polarization that is bound to occur when you divide citizens into winners and losers.

Haves and have nots.

Us and them.

Although it is hard on the candidates and parties that lose, the real tragedy of First Past The Post is that too many citizens end up without representation in government.  Without representation in government, there is no one to speak for the issues that matter to you.  I find it hard to believe in any democracy that results in so many second class citizens. Although there is no perfect system, more representative systems are better than winner-take-all systems because they provide representation to more of the population.

And the fact is, far too many voters are disfranchised as a matter of course.  Those who’ve been on the outside looking in are now on the inside looking out.

But no matter how undemocratic the system is, no matter how unfair the election result, democracy derives its authority from its citizens.  Citizens must accept the election result, even if it doesn’t go your way.  You don’t get to call “do-over” when you don’t get the result you want.

If you don’t accept the result when the other guy wins, how can you expect the other guy to respect the result when yours does?

Polarization drives people apart

Ad Hominem is the name of the logical fallacy in debate; it describes an attack on a person instead of making a valid argument.  [Almost always because there isn’t one.]   Throughout the election, Ad Hominem attacks weren’t limited to candidates, supporters levelled such attacks at each other throughout the campaign.   People were (and still are) being characterized as racist for supporting Mr. Trump; people were (and still are) characterized as corporate pawns or “cry babies” for supporting Mrs. Clinton.  But when an election is less about issues and more about personality and character, what else can you expect.

It seems the idea that citizens have the power to have a say in their government — the idea that each citizen has the inviolable right to choose for themselves how they will cast their vote — has been swallowed up in the polarizing hysteria.  When the political platforms of big tent parties cover the whole gamut of public policy, there are many reasons people vote for someone they might not like.

I read somewhere that exit polls showed a majority of voters had not actually cast a vote for someone they wanted to elect.

So is it any wonder that almost half the eligible voters did not vote in the American election?

When the two parties put forth the two most reviled candidates in history, I imagine many voters had no motivation to vote for either of them.

No one has the right to order other people how to vote, and then blame them if they don’t vote as they’ve been told. Not in democracy.  And yet I saw that happen over and over on social media.   Is Trump as bad as they say?  We don’t *know* yet.   I can’t imagine anyone whose own water was being destroyed by fracking would vote Clinton. I can’t imagine people whose local economy skipped down to Mexico thanks to Free Trade voting for Mrs. Clinton either. Poor white voters (racist or not) are not the only people who voted for Mr. Trump. The status quo has not been working for much of the 99%, and I think it may be worse there than here.

What Canadians call “strategic voting” and Americans call “lesser evilism” is what happens when most people feel they can’t vote for what they actually want.  If you are voting against instead of for something, how can they possibly achieve democratic representation?

Dissent

The freedom to dissent is an important element of any healthy democracy.

Many of us think of the constitutionally protected right to dissent as the right to speak our minds and write and publish what we think. But free speech is only one of three related rights protected by the First Amendment. Not only is Congress prohibited from passing a law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” the amendment also protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” and their right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Taken together, the right to free speech, the right of assembly, and the explicit right to express grievances to the government add up to an expansive right to “dissent” enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Beyond written or spoken words, the right to dissent is the right of citizens to organize themselves, to associate, to make themselves heard in order to achieve political and social change and oppose government policies without fear of impediment or reprisal.

The Meaning and Importance of Dissent

But what is happening in the United States is less dissent than the rejection of an unpopular election result.   As odious as many people may think Mr. Trump has shown himself to be, at this time he is still only the President-Elect.  He has not actually done anything yet.  Mr. Trump has made no policy, so this doesn’t constitute opposing government policies.  So far his only presidential crime has been winning a contentious and polarizing election.

History has shown over and over that when government is overthrown by force the result is rarely (never?) effective democracy.  Even in the best of democracies, the duly constituted authorities are not going to look kindly on mobs of citizens rioting in the streets against the Government.

Even if what is happening now is just masses of citizens letting off steam after two years of never ending messaging as potent as any war time propaganda, it would behoove them to be careful in a world without privacy.  Security cameras record much that happens on the streets, and Americans would do to remember they (like we) are living in a surveillance state where eveything done online is monitored and recorded.  Facial recognition and lip reading software is not only out there, it is being used.

Privacy and Personal Security

All the folks who didn’t mind such erosions of privacy and civil rights on Mr. Obama’s watch might want to reconsider their complacency.  In the weeks leading up to the election, the NODAPL water protestors went largely ignored by the mainstream media.  Even when journalists and documentarians started getting arrested for the crime of committing journalism there was barely a whimper.  If Mr. Trump proves to the the autocrat many of his opponents predict, it should be recalled that previous administrations have amply provisioned the American government with the tools to suppress dissent.  I can’t speak to the quality of the commercial services recommended in The Intercept’s handy guide to SURVEILLANCE SELF-DEFENSE AGAINST THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION.  What I can recommend is sticking with Free Software wherever possible. Distributed networks aren’t owned (and controlled by 3rd parties, Free Software has open source code which makes it harder to hide malware, and if you can manage to self host, no one has the keys to your data

Free Software.

Friendica can replace Facebook http://friendica.com/

Quitter can replace Twitter https://quitter.se/main/public

as does GNU Social if you want to host your own https://www.gnu.org/software/social/

Encrypting your email is a really good idea: How to encrypt your email

As is using TOR (The Onion Router) when using the Internet https://www.torproject.org/

Michael Nabert writes:

The most complex surveillance net in history, and its most expensive military, are only two of the tools that will soon be in the hands of Donald Trump, but perhaps the most troubling is the way that America’s last two presidents have persistently stripped away the rights of citizens to the extent that the U.S. claims the power to disappear people without charge or trial. Dissidents, here it comes.

Under the National Defence Authorization Act of 2012, the U.S. government claimed the power to snatch you off the street, hurl you into a military prison, and throw away the key. In 2014 the supreme court refused to hear a lawsuit brought by citizens including Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges that tried to challenge the idea that a government can simply decide that it’s perfectly okay to disappear their own citizens illegally without habeas corpus rights or due process of law merely by claiming you’ll be safer if they do it without any oversight.

https://www.rt.com/usa/156172-scotus-ndaa-hedges-obama/

This was, of course, only a part of the complete dismantling of protections and rights for US citizens which began under George W Bush after 9/11, although this particular indignity was heaped on by Barack Obama, who also pursued whistleblowers far more aggressively than any president before him while continuing down the same path.

http://truthinmedia.com/obama-has-sentenced-whistleblowers-to-10x-the-jail-time-of-all-prior-u-s-presidents-combined/

American citizens are already the most monitored, photographed, and eavesdropped on population in all of human history. The fact that the U.S. government has provided itself with all of the personal data, militarized police, and illegal powers necessary to create the largest most domineering police state in human history on a whole new level seems likely to make the next few years particularly challenging.

http://www.theglobalist.com/trump-inherits-the-surveillance-state/

Let’s remember as well that it has become normal for America to hurl death from above fairly indiscriminately using drone bombings under Obama as well. In targeting 41 different individuals, drones killed 1,147 people.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/24/-sp-us-drone-strikes-kill-1147

Weaponized drones are already being used on U.S. soil as well.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregoryferenstein/2015/08/26/weaponized-drones-now-legal-inside-the-u-s-lawmaker-says-crimefighting-will-become-a-video-game/

So I ask you, America, after spending $574 per taxpayer to take away your own privacy,

http://www.dailydot.com/layer8/nsa-cost-spying-taxpayer/

Do you feel safer?

Right now, it may be that the problem the United States of America faces has less to do with government and more to do with a polarized population unable to look past the rhetoric and set aside the hatred.   Glenn Beck wrote:  Don’t Move to Canada. Talk to the Other Side. but neither side seems to be listening.   There is no quick fix, but reforming the political system to one less divisive, something more democratic and accountable for all Americans all the time would certainly be a big help.

I very much hope our American friends can put aside their team allegiances and decide to work together for the good of all the people.

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STOP #CETA: Lessons from Canada

Canadians are not clamouring for CETA.  My fingers are crossed; I’m one nice patient Canadian who hopes Belgium will hold fast and continue to refuse to sign the CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).

I really don’t get why our Government is pursuing this Trade Agreement sought by the Harper Conservative Government.  Because the fact is, Canada has indeed suffered from “free trade” agreements, as pointed out in the Council of Canadians video below. I cannot comprehend why Canadian Governments are so willing to sign these things. Investor State Dispute Settlements are not good for democracy.

The Economist says:

IF YOU wanted to convince the public that international trade agreements are a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people, this is what you would do: give foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever a government passes a law to, say, discourage smoking, protect the environment or prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Yet that is precisely what thousands of trade and investment treaties over the past half century have done, through a process known as “investor-state dispute settlement”, or ISDS.

— The Economist Investor-state dispute settlement: The arbitration game

There is a lot more information about why CETA as it stands in a letter written by a group of Canadian academics”

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PARLIAMENT OF WALLONIA AND BELGIAN VOTERS ON THE PROPOSED CETA AND ITS FOREIGN INVESTOR PROTECTION SYSTEM

“To the Parliament of Wallonia and Belgian voters:

“We are Canadian academics with extensive collective expertise in investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and related issues under Canada’s trade and investment agreements. We are also among a small group of Canadian experts in this field who do not work in law firms or government as ISDS lawyers/ arbitrators.

img_5503“We write after reading news reports this past weekend about the scare tactics employed by Canadian politicians and business representatives in an effort to influence your legislative and government processes. We do not think that these voices represent accurately Canada’s experience under the foreign investor protection system that the CETA would expand. We are aware that many Canadians have expressed deep concern about this foreign investor protection system due to Canada’s experience with a similar system under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and in debates about the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), among other agreements.

“While we focus here on adverse consequences of the foreign investor protections in the CETA, we are also aware that the agreement will impose new constraints in many other areas of public policy beyond what we discuss. They include but are not limited to pharmaceutical regulation, public health, agriculture, government procurement, public services, labour rights, and market access. We note that other academics have raised significant concerns about the CETA in these areas.

“Since the NAFTA came into effect in 1994, Canada has been and remains the only Western developed country that has agreed to ISDS on a comprehensive basis while in the more vulnerable capital-importing position. In the case of NAFTA, Canada agreed to ISDS on this basis with the U.S. and Canada has since faced more foreign investor claims than all but a handful of countries, has paid compensation in response to numerous claims, and has altered government decisions or decision-making processes in order to accommodate foreign investor interests and to reduce risks of potentially massive liability.

“Business spokespersons who have defended these concessions of Canadian democracy and sovereignty often represent foreign companies in Canada or Canadian companies that may own companies abroad and be interested in bringing claims against Canada. It is perhaps understandable, though still very regrettable, that large businesses are keen to acquire special rights and special access to public money through ISDS.

“Reforms to ISDS in the CETA, relied on by Canadian officials to describe the CETA misleadingly as “progressive”, are inadequate to address major concerns about the CETA. The major concerns
include the undermining of democratic regulation, the special privileging of foreign investors, the lack of judicial independence and procedural fairness in the adjudicative process, and the lack of respect for domestic courts and domestic institutions. In particular, the “Investment Court System” (ICS) in the CETA does not remove the financial threat posed by foreign investor claims to democratic regulation, does not alter the unjustified and gross favouring of foreign investors over anyone else who has a conflicting right or interest, and does not establish a proper court with the usual safeguards of independence and fairness.

“These problems with the CETA’s foreign investor protections remain outstanding, despite the recent Joint Interpretive Declaration issued by Canada and the EU (in all of the various forms in which that Declaration became public).

“We are heartened that your democratic processes in Wallonia have allowed for close and careful consideration of the CETA’s flaws as part of a genuine and thoughtful debate. We wish Canadians had been permitted to have a similar debate based on a vote in Canada’s Parliament and provincial legislatures, but that has not been the case under the Harper government or the Trudeau government. In contrast to the views expressed undiplomatically by some Canadian politicians and business representatives, it appears to us that Belgian democracy has been exercised responsibly, as it should be, to allow parliamentary votes on the quasi-constitutional structures created by foreign investor protection agreements like the CETA.

“In Canada, our democracy has suffered because the federal government has insisted on pushing through agreements like the NAFTA and the CETA without legislative votes at the federal and provincial levels. As a result, and without the corresponding endorsements by our elected representatives, we have been left with a foreign investor protection system that binds all levels of government and that will bind all future elected governments in Canada for a very long time. Our experience hints at the dangers faced by European democracy in the case of the CETA. Whatever decisions you take, we urge you not to succumb to the same types of tactics used to mislead and scare Canadians into undermining our democracy on behalf of foreign investors. Canada and the European Commission have been aware for years that the CETA faced significant public and academic opposition due to its foreign investor protections. Yet they declined to remove these non-trade elements from the CETA.

“In a context where there is no credible justification for including ISDS or ICS in the CETA – given the greater reliability, independence, and fairness of Canadian and European democratic and judicial processes – it still surprises us how big business groups and governments acting on their behalf ferociously cling to such a deeply flawed and undemocratic model. In case they are of interest, we have noted below a few additional documents indicating concerns with the foreign investor protection system. We have also listed a larger sample of relevant publications by the signatories.

“From what we can see, you have shown great courage in opposing the CETA and, based on our observations of how the foreign investor protection system has been pushed on Canadians over the years, we wish to express our support for your democratic choices.”

The original letter including the complete list of signatories and links to supporting documents can be found in this PDF

Michael Geist talks about TPP at CIGIOn the European side you need look no further than the FFII blog, whose most recent article is, “A deceitful attempt to get CETA signed”

If all of this is too highbrow to grasp in one sitting, check out BUZZ FEED: The Court That Rules The World

The point is really that CETA is a bad deal for citizens on both sides of the pond.

Michael Geist has been talking about (and highlighting the flaws in) “trade deals” like CETA for years, so I’ll leave the last word to him: CETA Failure Reflects Public Rejection of Sweeping Trade Deals: Don’t blame EU unreasonableness for saying no to bad agreement with Canada.

 

80% of Canadians Want Climate Action

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Elizabeth May
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

The Harper Government disallowed the participation of opposition parties to attend the COP19 climate change negotiations in Warsaw as part of the Canadian Delegation.  

Elizabeth May, Canada’s Green Party leader, attended the conference as part of the Afghanistan Delegation. 

What a dramatic illustration of the lack of representation Canadians have in what we are told is a democratic government.

The problem is that a winner-take-all electoral system, like the one we have now, means the majority of Canadians do not have a voice in parliament.

Canada needs to reclaim democracy before it is too late.

In 2015 we all must vote for candidates committed to electoral reform to proportional representation.

Nearly 50% of eligible Canadians voters don’t vote, many because our inequitable electoral system has made them feel disenfranchised.  Because only some votes count in our unfair out dated First Past The Post electoral system. We need to encourage everyone to vote for candidates committed to meaningful electoral reform in 2015.  If Canadians cast enough fractional votes for candidates committed to Proportional Representation, we will all win.

We need to make all our votes count.

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Image Credit
Elizabeth May by ItzaFineDay released under a creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

For information on Proportional Representation visit FairVote.ca

Why the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a Bad Idea

cows in an Ontario field

The Harper Government is giving Canada CETA, (the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) which they tell us is “the most ambitious [Free Trade Agreement] Canada has ever attempted, encompassing every sector of the economy from automobiles to financial services, intellectual property to government procurement” as reported by the CBC in Stephen Harper signs EU trade deal in Brussels. Although the details are sketchy, there is a slick website designed to sell CETA to Canadians. Canadian reporters were “briefed” with what the government wants them to know about the deal before today’s press conference.

It isn’t just reporters being kept in the dark.  As Michael Geist points out, Canadians don’t know what the actual terms of CETA are. Instead of releasing the full text of the agreement, our government has only issued summaries, essentially a press release. The deal has been in the works since 2008, and enough dribs and drabs of information have been leaked to raise quite a few red flags. This is the opposite of government transparency; instead of consultation, Canadians are being told in glowing terms what our government does in our name after it is already done.

Democracy?  I think not.

We are being told CETA paves the way for a large increase in Canadian meat exports to the EU, but it will come with a cost to the Canadian cheese industry which faces a dramatic increase in EU cheese imports.  Now we know which Canadian cows had the more powerful lobby group.

But a free market?  Hardly.  But CETA is so much more than that.

THE COPYRIGHT QUESTION

Last year there was a great deal of concern that CETA was being used as a backdoor mechanism to revive ACTA.

But now the Harper Government says CETA is in line with Canada’s current Copyright Law. We are told we won’t need to implement the onerous copyright provisions once contemplated in order to make Canada ACTA compliant in earlier CETA drafts.  These provisions were supposed to have been removed because of strong ACTA opposition in the EU.  

Apparently the EU listens to its citizens.  Democracy, eh? 

Since they have not released the text of the CETA agreement, the reality is that we won’t know what CETA will do to Canadian Copyright Law until after the deal is ratified and made public.

COUNTERFEIT LAW

CETA is expected to increase border powers to seize counterfeit goods that allegedly infringe trademark, copyright or patent law without a court order.

This is the physical good equivalent to DMCA take downs, which treat copyright infringement allegations as though they are evidence.  This streamlines the process, dispensing with that inconvenient idea of innocence until guilt is proven.  After the web page or website has been taken down, (and your business is disrupted, and its reputation damaged) the accused must demonstrate innocence to get their website restored. But at least people can get it back.

Will the same be true at the border? Or will the seized goods be destroyed ~ as counterfeits routinely are ~ before it can be shown they have not infringed anything?

BRANDS

The sparkling wine pioneered in Champagne, France came to be known throughout the world as “champagne.” But the vintners in the Champagne region felt hard done by when sparkling wines made elsewhere were called “champagne,” so in recent years the LCBO has labelled it “sparking wine” at the LCBO unless it actually comes from France.  Hundreds of European items enjoy this kind of “brand protection” and CETA will extend it further.

They call this “Geographical Indications,” and what it means governments are dictating what language we humans are allowed use.

INTERNET SURVEILLANCE

Electronic commerce (page 27)
“Canadians shop and plan holidays online, and buy and download software and entertainment content, including movies, television and music. Advertisers are making increased use of “smart advertising” on the Web to track our shopping habits and promote specific deals likely to interest us.”

Do Canadian citizens really need to be subjected to even more internet surveillance?

TELECOM

Improved competition ensures greater choice for consumers  (Page 24)

“CETA will ensure that all players in the telecommunications market have fair access to networks and services, and ensure that regulators act impartially, objectively and in a transparent manner. Service providers and investors will benefit from increased transparency and predictability of the regulatory environment and secure, competitive marketplaces.”

Many Canadians know the CRTC has not protected our interests, effectively putting us at the mercy of the telecommunication companies for Internet, Broadcast television or Cell phone systems.  We already pay some of the highest prices in the world for insufficient to mediocre service.   Sounds like CETA will only make this worse.

PATENT LAW

CETA will allow large pharmaceutical companies to extend patent terms and keep generic medicines off the market for longer.  But instead of reinvesting increased revenues in advances, Michael Geist points out that the research and development in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry has decreased as patent “protection” increases.

Critics say this “could drive up costs for provincial drug plans and consumers by about $1 billion.”

FREE TRADE

Canadian Flag

The Harper Government is talking about compensating the industries for the losses CETA will cause as though this is a reasonable solution.

This means the same taxpayers who have not been consulted will foot the bill for CETA’s corporate welfare.

Canadians have seen the damage so-called free trade agreements can do.  Free Trade has made Canada the sixth most sued country in the world.

But CETA doesn’t just give away our natural resources, it threatens our health care.   Why do our governments keep doing these things?  It isn’t about free markets, or democracy, this is another winner takes all tale.  Once agaisn the most powerful lobby group wins, and leave the citizens to pay the piper.

Canadians need Proportional Representation if we’re ever to have democracy.

“If signed, CETA could unfairly restrict how local governments spend money and ban “buy local” policies, add up to $3 billion to the price of drugs, create pressure to increase privatization of local water systems, transit and energy, and much more.”

— The Council For Canadians: Canada-EU (CETA)

The only question Canadians need ask is, who will CETA benefit?

Not us, certainly.

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Further Reading:

Proposed CETA deal will put small cheesemakers out of business—DFC

Harper’s CETA Priority Is to Protect Big Corporations, Not Human Rights

Canada-EU Free Trade Deal: European Drug Demands Would Cost Canadians Up To $2B A Year

Excessive corporate rights in Canada-EU trade deal are unacceptable to broad section of European, Canadian and Quebec society

Michael Geist: Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part One: Now Release the Text

Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part Two: The Intellectual Property Provisions

CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Three: Meaningless Claims on Telecom & E-commerce
CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Four: Pharma Gets Patent Extension Despite Declining R&D in Canada

Canada-EU trade deal: Sell-out or celebration? Public needs a veto on massive corporate rights treaty

The Council of Canadians: Canada-EU (CETA)

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Ratifying FIPPA = Abdication of Responsibility

The Canada-China Trade Deal

To get a deeper understanding of why ratification of the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments [China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA)]  is such a bad deal for Canada, I recommend Christopher Majka’s series:

and

Open letter to Stephen Harper: Fourteen reasons the Canada-China #FIPA needs a full public review
This trade treaty is often called the “Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement” (FIPA)

Canadian Flag (cc by laurelrusswurm)

Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May suggested that:

All Liberal and Conservative MP’s should ask their party the following questions:

    1. Why does this treaty lock Canada in for 31 years, when NAFTA allows 6 month notice to exit, and even the investment treaty with Benin, tabled in the House after the China Treaty, allows exit in 16 years?
    2. Why does the China treaty give the State Owned Enterprises from China a six month window for diplomatic wrangling, within which Canadian governments and businesses can lose in behind-closed-doors pressure by China on the Canadian government? No other investment treaty includes a 6-month nation to nation diplomatic process.
    3. Why is this the first treaty in years that allows the entire arbitration process to remain secret, allowing Canada only the option of making it public?
    4. Why has Australia, with a 10-fold larger volume of two-way trade with China than Canada, refused to enter into investor-state agreements, including refusing to negotiate one with China. Why has Canada not conducted a study, as Australia did, to determine whether these treaties do more economic harm than good?

“Unless every Member of Parliament can get satisfactory responses to these questions, any vote in support of this treaty will be an abdication of our responsibility as Canadians to ensure we are not giving the Peoples’ Republic of China the right to challenge our laws – whether municipal, provincial or federal, or court judgments – claiming billions even for measures taken with no intent or evidence of trade discrimination,” said Ms. May.

Happy Earth Day: House to vote on Canada China Investment Treaty Today

Gerry James adds:
5. Why can we as a nation leave nation to nation dispute settlement mechanism to a three person arbitration board for final judgments of such magnitude and gravity. While I understand arbitrators can effectively resolve many international commercial differences, to leave the fate of nation to nation trade conflicts under this pact to a panel of 3 arbitrators with binding decisions is willful recklessness.

Canadian Flag surrounded by cables

majority

Stopping a Federal Government with a majority from doing exactly as it wants is problematic. Absent the real democracy Canada might have with a proportional electoral system, public opinion is one of the few checks we have on our government. Sometimes the most powerful dictator can be swayed from pursuing an ill advised path if faced with unified public opinion.

The various opposition parties have been fighting FIPA in their various ways all along, but at the end of the day, the Liberal Party chose not to stand with the NDP in voting against FIPA ratification. Instead, the Liberal Party chose to support FIPA.

The volume of partisan blaming online is deafening. NDP blame Liberals for not supporting their scrap FIPA motion, while Liberals argue that the NDP behaved just as badly as Liberals by refusing to support the Liberal motion to amend FIPA. Are the two motions equal? The NDP answers that its motion could have stood a chance had all opposition united behind it, but that the LPC motion merely repeated an NDP motion previously quashed by the government.

I sumbit that there is merit to the NDP side.  If the LPC had voted with the NDP, there was a chance some CPC backbenchers would have voted for the NDP motion because it was so clearly in the public good. Had that happend, a majority vote against ratification would have killed the treaty. But there is no reason to expect any CPC MP will commit pointless party suicide by voting against party dictates without a real chance of accomplishing something — in this case protection of the public good.

Whether you buy into either partisan tale or none, the fact remains that partisan special interests trumped the public good. The inability of the opposition parties to work together is not good for Canada.

Trade deals can be good or bad, but it seems pretty clear that this incarnation of FIPA will be very good for China, and very bad for Canada – for am unprecedented 31 years.

The only thing now standing between Canada and the FIPA steamroller is that the Hupacasath First Nation Filed Notice of Application Against Canada – China FIPPA

Since our government has let us down, the only thing the rest of Canada can do is support the Hupacasath First Nation in standing up for Canada’s future.  Leadnow is raising donations to help with the legal bills.  If you can, please Donate to the First Nations legal challenge that could stop FIPA in its tracks

FIPA: The Greatest Threat to Canada’s Future

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Post Script:

If the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (FIPPA) is ratified, Canada will be stuck with it for more than three decades. That is an awfully long time for an entire nation to suffer the consequences of an ill advised path that was negotiated in secret.

It may be too late for us to do anything that will work, but at this point, it is too important to let go. Anything is worth a try if there is any chance at all we can salvage our children’s future. The government has not yet ratified the Canada-Chinese Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (FIPPA).

Canadians must keep on letting them know we are not willing to accept this travesty.

Leadnow and SumOfUs have already delivered their digital petitions. If you have not yet signed any petition, here are the three I know of:

The Council For Canadians Petition
NDP petition
Green Party Paper Petition

Other things we can do:

Leadnow’s call-your MP form Although the vote has already transpired, you can continue to call your MP, and use the talking points on this Leadnow page. When speaking directly to your MP, an excellent strategy is to remain calm and firm, and repreat what you want to say until you get verbal acknowledgement that the person on the phone has heard you. They are most likely to respond with party “talking points” that don’t actually answer your questions or concerns. Stay focussed on your points… have notes written down in front of you if it will help. Under our antiquated and inequitable system, most MPs have very little more power than we do. But if they continue to receive calls telling them that their constituents are not willing accept this, it may encourage thekm to do the right thing.

Note: The Green Party digital petition is no longer online, but we can still download and sign – and get our community to sign – paper petitions we can then mail (postage free) to Ms. May and/or our own MPs, of whatever flavour.

The Green Party also makes available online forms to:
Green Party Write-A-Letter to your MP
email your friends
Green Party Write-A-Letter Form

Finally, you may want to read or re-read Elizabeth May’s article:

The threat to Canada’s sovereignty — what we are giving to China

Trade with China should not mean handing over the keys to Canada.

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#Manifencours ~ Day 136: Nordic Countries have Free Education

“One of the main Twitter hashtags relating the Quebec actions is #manifencours, an abbreviation of “manifestation en cours, meaning simply “demonstration in the streets.”
Salon: Dissent, à la Québécoise

When I went to college every eligible Canadian could reasonably access the education they wanted.

In Ontario, students could apply for OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) and, depending on financial circumstance could get loans and/or grants to ensure they could get an education. Without the grants I received, I very much doubt I would have gone to college.

Ontario was looking to cut back the year I graduated. Because I was well aware how important government assistance was for me, I attended my first Queen’s Park protest this bad policy.

It didn’t help.

By the time my younger siblings began their post secondary education, grants were gone. Ironically, those in government deciding to decrease education funding today were themselves beneficiaries of an accessible educational system.

education for some

How many of our young people who should be attending college or university are driving cab or slinging Mcfood?  How many are unwilling to mortgage the rest of their lives in repaying their debt-fueled education?

Perhaps the ones with the capacity to solve world hunger,  develop a faster-than-light drive or cure Cancer or AIDS will never get the chance to fulfil their potential. 

That isn’t just their loss, it’s ours.

Day 136: Quebec Student Strike

When we see Government of Quebec ignoring the legitimate concerns of the students, and worse, when we see riot police abusing these young people who aren’t looking for a free ride, but a hand up, I have to wonder . . . why?

It is in Canada’s best interest to educate all of our young. They say there isn’t enough money, yet there always seems to be money for fighter jets and prisons.

Post secondary students in other Canadian Provinces assume an even greater student debt load than those in Quebec. Is this wise? Or is it even good public policy?

I think not.

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Infographic by Occupy* Posters released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) via Silhouette Man

Yesterday’s Search Terms …. #SOPA

I am not an expert on SOPA, PIPA, or American Censorship of the Internet; but I do know quite enough about the issue to be extremely concerned.  This blog got an awful lot of traffic yesterday, and it seems that there were a lot of unanswered questions about how this all will affect Canadians.

The following are many of the search queries — what people type into the “search” bar in their browsers — that brought people to this blog yesterday:

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SOPA and Protect IP (PIPA) will most certainly affect Canada.  These bills assume American governance over all of the Internet used by Canadians.   Under these laws, an American allegation will result, not just in blocking Americans access to Canadian sites accused of infringement, but in Canadian website takedowns.  This is simply unacceptable.  Last time I looked, Canada was a sovereign nation.

If I haven’t answered your questions, please let me know in comments or email (click my avatar image; my email address is posted in my profile), and I’ll address any unanswered questions next week.

In the meantime, for information about the legal ramifications of SOPA/PIPA on Canada, Michael Geist wrote a pretty extensive explanation of the legalities for Canadians in Why Canadians Should Participate in the SOPA/PIPA Protest

You can find information about SOPA from http://americancensorship.org/

… and, of course, Wikipedia has clearly stepped up to the plate on this.

Yesterday, while the US portion of Tumblr was dark, I posted a fair number of screen caps of blacked out sites, as well as reblogging Tumblr SOPA protests on my Tumblr blog.

SOPA and PIPA are bad laws that will very definitely impact on Canadians and our Internet.

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