[This is a guest post by Verna Brunet, an ordinary Canadian with serious concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.]
Yesterday I went to Windsor, Ontario to join the protest against the TPP outside the hotel where the Trudeau Liberal government was holding consultations on this treasonous trade agreement.
My sign read:
TPP is Oligarchy
Oligarchy is a corruption of Democracy
I was told that we could speak to the government for maximum 2 minutes between 2pm and 3pm, if we signed up.
The problem with me has never been how to get me to shoot off my mouth. The usual issue is how in the world to shut me up once I get started.
Didn’t have anything prepared. Had to scramble some notes.
Here’s what I said:
The people of Canada elected your party to administer our DEMOCRACY. The TPP destroys our democracy, replacing it with OLIGARCHY. We the people have never given you the authority to do that. The TPP makes the Trudeau Liberals, like the Harper Conservatives before them, a rogue government.
Secret ISDS courts are a swift kick I’m the face of Democracy and a sucker punch to the gut of Justice
The only right protected by this sickening trade agreement is the insane, irrational right of millionaires to make a profit.
We elected you to govern in a manner that protects our economic rights. Instead you have sold our economic rights to the elite 1%. You are a rogue government.
The TPP allows the pathologically greedy millionaires to erase the last shreds of our cherished and democratic environmental protection laws.
These are the same environmental laws we elected you to protect and enforce.
With these toxic trade agreements you have become a rogue government like the Harper Conservative government before you.
The TPP allows pathologically greedy millionaires to erase the last frail shreds of our civil rights — the same rights we elected you to restore.
You have betrayed us. You are a rogue government.
You campaigned on CHANGE You have failed to change: the TPP the ISDS courts.
This is the fourth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
Canada’s government is chosen with a “First Past the Post” electoral system where some votes are worth more than others, but most don’t count at all. This effectively divides Canadians into those that have representation and those who have none.
With such disproportionate representation, the best hope for in such a polarized electorate is a minority government, because no laws can be passed without the support of more than one party. Unfortunately there is no “minority government” box to mark on the ballot. This is especially difficult for citizens when our winner-take-all electoral system delivers a majority government to a single party that earned far less than a majority of votes.
Our current Liberal majority government was elected by just 39.5% of the voters, excluding a majority of Canadians from representation in Government. When a “majority” government (like most First Past the Post (FPTP) governments) is elected by a minority of voters, the majority of voters are unrepresented. The idea is that whoever is elected, is expected to represent the interests of all their constituents. This sounds good in theory, but hasn’t worked so well in practice.
What citizens are left with is a serious democratic deficit. The problem becomes even bigger when well funded corporate and ideological special interest groups can successfully lobby for what their employers want. Powerful insiders and professional lobbyists know how the system works and they how to get what their employers want. Not only do these people know who to talk to, they have access to the decision makers ordinary citizens don’t. These pros can make backroom deals and convince the right people to put forth legislation and trade agreements beneficial to the special interests groups who hire them — even when it’s detrimental to the public good.
Since we are saddled with a system that usually leaves most voters without representatives who will speak for us in Parliament, the only recourse left to the majority of Canadians without representation is to lobby the government ourselves when our MPs consider issues important to us. If we don’t, we have no hope of discouraging our MPs from supporting:
legislation, policy or dangerous trade agreements Canadians oppose,
making and voting for laws that undermine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and/or
otherwise jeopardize the public good,
That’s why the majority of voters have to work very hard just to get the government’s attention. We must try to educate the government about the issues that are important to us, and work even harder to try to convince the government not to pass laws or make policy detrimental to our interests.
If we used a different kind of electoral system — one that provided citizens with some form of Proportional Representation — we wouldn’t have to work so hard because we would actually have representation in Ottawa.
But we aren’t there yet. In the here and now, it is very important you let your MP know where you stand on issues that matter to you.
It doesn’t matter which party your MP is in, if you oppose Canada’s ratification of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) you need to let your MP know you do not want the TPP.
Or Bill C-51.
Or even a motion to condemning the BSD movement (our right to dissent!).
Whenever the government is going to do things we don’t want it to, it’s up to us to let the government know or the only side they will hear is the other one. If you can’t convince your MP and/or their party disagrees with you, s/he isn’t likely to do you much good at all. So our only hope is that a lot of other Canadians will contact their MPs about the issues that matter to you as well.
We would be much better off with Proportional Representation, but even without it, if enough of us speak up, (strongly enough, loudly enough) there is a slim chance we might persuade the Government to back away from bad policy. Public opinion didn’t seem to have much weight with the previous Government, but public opinion does matter to the Liberal Government. Our chance of being heard is better than it was with 39.6% majority government the Liberals replaced.
You can contact your MP in a variety of ways:
by meeting with your MP in person,
speaking to your MP on the phone,
sending your MP postal mail (Mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of Parliament)
writing your MP an email,
sending your MP a fax
speaking to your MP on social media, or
Meeting with your MP in person is probably the single most effective strategy while signing a petition (especially a digital petition) is probably the least effective. To make it easier for the folks in the Waterloo Region area to contact your MP, I’ve put together contact information for our new crop of Members of Parliament.
MP Raj Saini (Liberal)
209 Frederick Street (Main Office)
This part of the website seems a little bit broken just now, as I’m finding it is providing links to incomplete draft contact pages. It might be easier to simply type in the correct URL by typing it into the URL address bar (or search bar) in your browser:
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.
“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 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)
But 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:
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?
Last week Canadian farmers drove their tractors to Ottawa in a protest against the TPP. There are wide-spread fears this agreement will allow Multinationals to be able to dictate laws, suppress citizen rights and dispense with environmental protections if any of these things interfere with the pursuit of profit.
Much of the ground work has been laid for the unprecedented abdication of Canadian sovereignty through many of the laws pushed through by the Harper Government in previous years.
In spite of the fact Canada is undergoing a federal election, the Harper Government has made the unprecedented decision to continue with business as usual Under the Canadian political system, government is prorogued — stopped — when an election is called. Any draft legislation which has not completed the process is thrown out. Instead of pursuing new business, the Government has always gone into “caretaker” mode. After all, there will be a new government after the election; new decisions will be up to the them. If anyone in the new government is still interested after the election, they have to start over then.
But not now.
This is why it is bizarre — and disturbing — that the Harper Government has continued with its secret trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, (TPP). Although we know this exists, whatever it is that is being negotiated is secret. Still, there have been enough hints of what we might expect that many Canadians are very much concerned, and many are very much opposed.
Instead of behaving the way Canadians rightfully expect, Mr. Harper has chosen to act as though the election doesn’t matter. As though he is Prime Minister for life. And in spite of mounting protest against the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, they announce
Even now, the content of the agreement is secret, and the New York Times reports that
“Its full 30-chapter text will not be available for perhaps a month, but labor unions, environmentalists and liberal activists are poised to argue that the agreement favors big business over workers and environmental protection.”
So Canadians will have no facts — beyond the fact the Harper Government has signed it — until long after this election.
Over the years we’ve seen our democratic processes chipped away, but most Canadians have insisted that because we hold elections (no matter how unfair), Canada is still a democracy.
But it seems Mr. Harper doesn’t think there is any reason to stop what he’s doing just because we are having an election. [A election he himself called.] Apparently elections are meaningless to Mr. Harper. Perhaps he thinks it is in the bag. After all, he has the money to outspend all the competition in TV ads. Is that all it takes?
Is this what we have come to?
40% of Canadians didn’t vote last time.
Everyone has theories to explain why more people didn’t than voted conservative. If we had a “non-of-the-above” option, it would have prevailed. But we don’t.
I myself think there are many reason why so many eligible Canadian voters don’t vote. Where I live, I know old order Mennonites don’t vote. And I know there is a lot of conflict among First Nations about whether or not to vote. And a lot of young people reject the idea of voting in a system that is so corrupt. Personally I am inclined to think the biggest demographic are voters who gave up after they realized their vote would never count. But like everyone else’s theories, that is just a guess.
Frankly, I don’t care why we don’t vote. We all have our own reasons, and that’s fine. What I do hope is that many of these Canadians can see their way to voting this time in spite of everything. As someone whose vote has never counted, I know my vote isn’t likely to count again this time. But that would change if my vote is joined by some of theirs.
If even half of the 40% who don’t customarily vote would vote, we will see change.
Does this Canadian election matter?
You betcha! This one is the most important election of my life. Its outcome will have a profound impact on our world, and on our future.
I have spent my life being non-partisan. Every election I have chosen who to vote for on the issues as I see them. With a better system my vote might have counted once or twice. But this year, I am partisan because my husband decided he had to run for the Green Party, and since he is one of the smartest and most honorable men I have ever known in my life, I am supporting him to the best of my ability. And along the way I seem to agree with most of the Green platform, so that works out. And while we very much hope you vote Green, what is most important is that you vote. Vote for the candidate that will best represent your interests.
It may be pretty thin, but Canada is still a democracy. We can still vote. And if enough of us vote, it will make a difference. But it’s time to use it, or lose it.
No one doubted that the majority of Canadians emphatically said NO. We did what we are supposed to: we changed the government to make our point. Yet it didn’t help. NAFTA is alive and well in Canada.
[And people wonder why so many Canadians don’t vote.]
It’s no wonder governments seek to negotiate trade agreements in secret; citizens might vote them out if we knew what they were doing. Even our protests might slow them down.
In spite of onerous non-disclosure agreements, information about the dreadful secret trade agreement ACTA (the so-called “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”) kept leaking out. I blogged extensively about ACTA in my interweb freedom blog. Enough was known about it to frighten Europeans into taking to the streets. The result was that ACTA was rejected emphatically after European citizens took to the streets to tell their governments “NO!”
The ACTA agreement crumbled, or so the world thought . . .
The agreement was signed in October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States. In 2012, Mexico, the European Union and 22 countries which are member states of the European Union signed as well. One signatory (Japan) has ratified (formally approved) the agreement, which would come into force in countries that ratified it after ratification by six countries.
Although many people believe the world rejected ACTA, Canada has not. Some of the worst of the laws that erode civil rights that are being forged by Canada’s “majority government” are in service of the ACTA trade agreement. ACTA is alive and well in Canada.
Governments and special interests pursue these treaties in secret because the terms are detrimental to citizen interests. They then use the existence of such “trade treaties” to justify draconian changes they then make to our domestic laws. We are told they “have to do it” because of the treaty commitment. Funny how the Harper Government doesn’t “have to” live up to Canada’s Kyoto commitment.
Make A Difference
The Inter-Continental Day of Action, 31 January 2013 is gearing up across Canada, the United States and Mexico to protest the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), the latest in the dizzying proliferation of “trade agreements” that sacrifice the public good in the interests of servicing the objectives of corporations.