Austerity budget, free trade, crime bill: Conservatives eye sweeping changes with 2012 legislation
5. The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA)
Status: Being negotiated in secret with the European Union. Canada announced recently it has completed nine rounds of negotiations so far – and is set on completing the free trade agreement this year.
“Bilateral economic relations with the EU are very important to Canada, and this economic relationship is a high priority for the Government of Canada,” says the foreign affairs and international trade website. CETA, the government argues, is simply an extension of decades of trans-Atlantic trade.
But, though not widely known, this free trade bill has come under extensive fire – and even more when documents were leaked last week from the secret negotiations suggesting the government might be putting water privatization and other services on the bargaining table.
While technically CETA is not legislation before Parliament, it could have an extraordinary impact on our cities, provinces and country. Critics warn that the free trade deal would allow corporations to sue any level of government – even municipalities – and overturn their decisions if they harm business profits. Such powers would go even further than CETA's forebears, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
This is not a conspiracy theory. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities and 20 other governments across the country requested (unsuccessfully, so far) to be excluded from the treaty; Toronto city councillors presented a wooden Trojan horse to the city as a warning; Saskatoon city council has been debating opposition to the agreement.
The Council of Canadians – with more than 100,000 members – alleges that the agreement would bar municipalities or provinces from enacting 'buy local' laws, or requirements that companies employ a certain amount of local workers.
“Canadian municipalities are rapidly losing their ability to build local economies and set sustainable policies,” the group said in a statement. “The federal government is pursuing international trade deals that target municipal powers and services, without giving a real say to local governments.”