What happened to Canada’s #TPP Consultation?

The Trudeau government won’t be pressured by the Conservatives or business lobbies into ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal until the public has been consulted about it, says Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

She told Conservative trade critic Gerry Ritz in the Commons that the deal is not even open yet for ratification or a signature. A tentative agreement was reached among 12 countries during the Oct. 19 election campaign.

Trade experts have said the TPP deal, which hinges on U.S. congressional approval, likely won’t have to be approved until 2017.

The Liberal government supports free trade, Freeland said. “We understand that on a deal this big, it is essential to consult Canadians and have a full parliamentary debate.” The Liberals have yet to indicate how they plan to consult the public.

Conservatives call on Liberals to move forward on TPP

Did I miss something? Because suddenly Ms. Freeland is saying:

Canada Will Sign TPP Deal, But That Doesn’t Mean It’ll Ratify It: Freeland

“It is clear that many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities, while others have concerns,” Freeland wrote.”Many Canadians still have not made up their minds and many more still have questions.”

Um. Well, of course Canadians have concerns and questions… although it’s been in negotiation for 5 years, it’s been in secret– well, at least to most Canadians, citizens and parliamentarians alike. But while we are all scrambling to catch up with this, big industry has been not only involved but fully informed from the start. They’ve had years to study and influence the content of the TPP. But for the rest of Canada? We’ve been given no opportunity at all to influence the thing, it’s thousands of pages long, it’s only just been made public and we have been presented with an ultimatum. Either Canada can sign on to the TPP as is, or we can pass.

While it’s true the new Liberal government did not negotiate this deal, the Conservative Party that did continues to support it, its current leader claims:

 “The Trans-Pacific Partnership offers huge opportunities.” —Rona Ambrose

The reality is that it doesn’t actually matter which government negotiated the TPP, if Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government signs the TPP, it will bear the brunt of the responsibility for the thing. And I have yet to hear any evidence that this agreement will be beneficial to Canada.  Oh, sure, I have no doubt Ms. Ambrose is correct–there will be enormous opportunities to be had by signing the TPP. Just none of them will benefit the public good. If Canada signs the TPP, we will be on the hook.  The government that signs it will effectively abdicating our sovereign power to unaccountable corporate tribunals (via ISDS)

Michael Geist talks about TPP at CIGIBut Michael Geist disagrees.  Michael is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University, and he’ so concerned about the TPP that he’s been blogging a daily series about its many pitfalls:

The Trouble With the TPP

If that’s not enough, we know Jim Balsillie fears TPP could cost Canada billions and become worst-ever policy move

And then there’s the just released Tufts’ Global Development and Environment Institute report which estimates “the 12 countries involved in the proposed free trade deal would lose a net total of 771,000 jobs in the 10 years after the deal comes into force.

All of this raises many many questions.  All the evidence I’ve seen suggests signing the TPP will cause actual harm to Canada, so I can see no good reason to sign the thing. And besides, didn’t we just vote out the government that got us into this spot?  Didn’t we vote for real change?

And what happened to the promised consultations?

Perspective on the Syrian refugees

Refugee Perspective Map by Kyle D. Hastings[Guest Post by Kyle D. Hastings, Okanagan College business student]

I made this map to give people perspective on the Syrian refugees.

The purple country is Turkey.
They took in over 2,000,000 Syrian refugees and spent as estimated 4.5 billion USD.

The green country is Jordan.
They took in an estimated 1,400,000 Syrian refugees.

Last but not least, that tiny red dot, that’s Lebanon. Lebanon is the smallest country in continental Asia.
Lebanon took in over 1,100,000 Syrian refugees.

People want to ban Syrian refugees from Canada, saying, 10,500,000 dollars is too much and 25,000 people is too much.

We have a population of 35,160,000 people, in 2014-2015 we had a surplus of 1,900,000,000 dollars.
Our government has yearly expenditures in the 270,000,000,000 range.

Keep telling yourself we can’t help.

People are letting fear of ISIS try to stop us from helping people.

In this world you can never be 100% safe, but the moment we stop looking after each other is the moment we give up on humanity.

Let’s continue to be a diverse country that accepts and helps people.

The foregoing is a reprint of Kyle’s Facebook post, which has received wide circulation as well as being featured on Huffington Post Canada, and the following is Kyle’s response to questions and concerns that have been raised in response to his thoughtful article..

To anyone wondering, I am aware that large parts of Canada are uninhabited, I posted a population density map in my original facebook post.

“Our government spent over 270 billion dollars in 2014-2015.
The entire government plan to help these refugees is pegged at 1.2 billion dollars over six years.
1,200,000,000/6 years= 200,000,000 a year.

That’s 0.074% of the governments yearly federal expenditures.

“That’s much less than a tenth of one percent of their yearly expenditures to help victims of war.  I understand that 1.2 billion is a lot but we must keep perspective on the size of our government. I strongly believe we can help less fortunate Canadians and Syrian refugees at the same time, it shouldn’t be one or the other.

“Aside from just economics and space I think it’s the only humane and Canadian thing to do.

“Turning these people away would go against our values.

“Before anyone freaks out about government debt please keep in mind how government debt works and that it is mainly internal debt.
In case anyone is wondering, government debt is money borrowed from the government through issuing securities, generally to the banks of the people.  The banks work on a fractional reserve system which allows them to essentially hold a fraction of their deposits while utilizing the rest to make loans and gain interest. So the government uses these securities to stimulate the economy at lower interest rates and that’s how our economy works as far as I know. Government debt isn’t a totally bad thing and I can’t see the costs of this plan causing any major economical problems. We also have to remember these people are going to assimilate and they might have a lot to contribute to our country.   If I said anything wrong about economics let me know, it wasn’t my major but that’s my understanding of it!

“Also I know that bringing them here is more expensive than sending more money but they’re having a problem of being severely overcrowded, so we should help out!

“The government of Canada has also issued a Syrian Emergency Relief Fund in which they match donations made by Canadians before Dec 31, to a maximum of 100 Million.
I suggest donating to UNCHR, you can get some great tax credits, 15% of your first 200 dollars to eligible charities, 29% of amount over 200 dollars.
If you or your spouse haven’t claimed donations after 2007 you can get the first time donor credit that is an additional flat 25% of your whole donation.
If I messed up on any of those tax credits let me know.

“There are a lot of people saying let’s look after our own before we help anyone else, but who decides when Canadians are looked after properly though? I don’t think with an attitude like its us or them that it would ever happen. The government spends money on many less wise policies than helping the victims of war.”

— Kyle D. Hastings

I agree with Kyle: there is no reason Canada can’t look after our own AND help these victims of war.  

Personally, I think that the Canadian budget for helping Syrian Refugees ought to correspond to the Canadian budget for waging war in the Middle East.  That would only be fair.  — Laurel Russwurm

Fair Elections Act Petitions

X marks the spotThe Harper Government is rushing the so called “Fair Elections Act” 242-page Omnibus Bill through the House of Commons at breakneck speed. The sweeping changes this ill advised draft legislation seeks to implement are raising alarms among Canadians about the future of Canadian democracy.

You can read the full text of Bill C-23 here.


So far there are two petitions in opposition to the ill advised “Fair Election Act” the Harper Government is rushing through the House of Commons.

The first is being mounted by the online advocacy group Leadnow, who are particularly concerned with the aspects of the bill which will serve to disenfranchise many Canadians, including First Nations peoples, Canadian young people, and the growing ranks of the Canadian poor.
PETITION: Stop US Style Voter Suppression From Becoming Canadian Law

The second petition is from The Council of Canadians, who are particularly concerned with the undemocratic changes this law would make to our electoral system.
PETITION: Investigate and prevent electoral fraud with a truly fair Elections Act

Further Reading:

My previous article looked at the “Fair Elections Act” but there are so many things wrong with C-23 there have been a flurry of articles already:

Canada Flag

Canada’s Colours are Red and White

The Poppy Truck
Do red poppies drive help Canadians remember war or do they drive us to it?

Originally red poppy donations provided a way for the Canadian Legion social club to offer its members ~ Canadian veterans and their families ~ assistance beyond what the government does.

This in no way relieves our government of its obligations to support the citizens who have served in any branch of our armed services. Whether or not our nation is at war, our government owes a debt to the Canadians who have served, and their families.

Jeff Rose-Martland wrote a Huffington Post article What Fantino Wants Us to Do on Remembrance Day Is Forget. What follows is my comment, which may or may not be approved “Due to the potentially sensitive nature of this article.”

The mainstream media supports the status quo.  Mainstream news programs show us images of Remembrance Day ceremonies where politicians at every level of government wear red poppies on their lapels as they stand shoulder to shoulder with veterans in uniform.

So why should there be outrage?

Canadians in both “service world” and “civilian land” believe the illusion Canada is a democracy, while living in a country where most Canadians have no say at all in what our governments do in our name.

Because the votes of most Canadians simply don’t count.

That didn’t used to be a big deal because our elected representatives at least tried to represent all their constituents.  To represent the public good.

Today the public good is at risk on all fronts in Canada.  Environment. Health Care. Education. Civil Liberties. It is shameful our nation has such a record of poverty ~ and most of those below the poverty line are children.

If veterans choose to suffer stoically while the Canadian government does not live up to it’s obligations to them, they are not doing their part.  Some are already fighting for change.

Veterans can join the Occupy movement or Fair Vote.  They can protest fracking, scientist muzzling, secretive trade deals… any of a multitude of wrongs committed by our undemocratic democracy.

Or they could vote for politicians committed to Proportional Representation.

Or they can wear a white poppy on Remembrance Day.

Royal Canadian Legion poppy drive collection box in a Conservative MP's officeAs both student and parent, I have attended many Remembance Day ceremonies in schools. There is no question whether the red poppy makes Canadians remember…
at least for one day a year.

But has honouring the symbol done anything to stop war?

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino calls the white poppy campaign “offensive “ as he moves to close Veterans Affairs offices.

Shouldn’t we be supporting all Canadians speaking up for peace?  As far as I can tell, no one is selling white poppies.

You can make your own white poppy, or you can continue to support the Legion’s poppy drive with donations, and paint your red poppy white with a bit of craft paint.

But can you think of anything more bizarre than fighting over what colour best symbolises peace?

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Minister Fantino’s Inappropriate Use of Government Website

A Canadian flag flies at half mast against a blue skyGovernment of Canada websites have, for the most part, made extremely good use of the Internet. Canadians benefit from access to government information and legislation available online.

Until now.

It was quite shocking to find a vitriolic tirade Canadian International Development Agency | Dear NDP: CIDA Does Not Need Your Economic Advice published on a Government of Canada website by Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation, Julian Fantino.

[Note: The CIDA page was taken down, so the above link goes to the article in the Google cache ]

Although Canada currently has a government formed by the Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party has enough elected Members of Parliament to form the Official Opposition, which is also a part of the Canadian Government. Even if the NDP did not, as a duly registered political party representing any number of Canadian citizens, members of the NDP are certainly entitled to their own opinions and policies. Even when such opinions are published in the Huffington Post.

If Minister Fantino wished to respond to MP Helen Laverdière’s piece, he could have done so with his own submission to the Huffington Post. Or he could have submitted such a rebuttal elsewhere. Surely the Globe and Mail or the National Post would have been happy to oblige. Had he preferred to dispense with editorial oversight, he could have instead posted this diatribe under his own byline on his own blog. Or on any Conservative Party of Canada website or blog.

Minister Fantino’s ill advised decision to publish this partisan attack on a Federal Government website is clearly inappropriate.

Canadian Government websites are ultimately the property of Canadians, who come in many different shapes, sizes and ideologies. In order to properly serve our multifaceted, multicultural, multipartisan nation, Canadian Government websites must remain politically nonpartisan if they are to retain any credibility.

Minister Fantino has given the Canadian Government a black eye through this self serving overreach of authority. And Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation seems incapable of cooperating with his peers.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

P.S. I am pleased to report that Minister Fantino’s original article was taken down during the writing of this article. For anyone interested in reading it I’ve provided a link to Google’s cache of the document.