2 minutes on the TPP

[This is a guest post by Verna Brunet, an ordinary Canadian with serious concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.]


TPP Rally in Ottawa cc by SumOfUs
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.

As a Democratic government you are a failure.

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Image Credit
TPP rally. Ottawa, Canada, June 10 2014 by SumOfUs was released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

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?

Does this Canadian Election Matter?

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Tractor parade at the Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival, 2015. Coincidence? I think not.

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

Canada has successfully concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

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.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached, New York Times

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.

Vote. Vote for the candidate who will best represent your interests. I hope that's a Green, but vote regardless.

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.

VOTE.

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No More NAFTA ~ ACTA ~ Stop the TPP

Canadian Flag Superimposed on American Flag

Do you remember NAFTA?

Canadians exercised our democratic right to fire Brian Mulroney and his entire political party (save 2) for inflicting NAFTA on Canada. We said NO to NAFTA.

In decimating the Progressive Conservative Party, we replaced Mulroney with a new Liberal Prime Minister.  PM Jean Chrétien took office with a decisive majority, because he had:

“…campaigned on a promise to renegotiate or abrogate NAFTA; however, Chrétien subsequently negotiated two supplemental agreements with the new US president.”

Wikipedia: NAFTA

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.]

Casseroles Protest

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.[6] In 2012, Mexico, the European Union and 22 countries which are member states of the European Union signed as well.[7] One signatory (Japan) has ratified (formally approved) the agreement, which would come into force in countries that ratified it after ratification by six countries.

Wikipedia: Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

Casseroles demonstration

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.

And now the The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership is coming.

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.

Find your local event, or start your own!

Canadians Demonstrating
Canadians are getting better at demonstrating because we have to.