FIPA could force Canada to keep weak environmental laws: May

 "Any state-owned enterprise from China that was counting on our weak environmental laws can sue us," says the Green Party leader. 

"China’s the larger economic power. It’s not a matter of opinion, but a fact, that in every investor state agreement, the stronger power wins," said Green MP Elizabeth May, on the ratification of the China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) today.

The ratification was announced today in a news release, saying FIPA will come into force on October 1, 2014, and will be effective for the next 31 years. Although originally signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2012 during a trip to Russia, FIPA was delayed for two years due to public outcry and division from within the Conservative Party. 

May said FIPA could effectively 'lock in' Canada to weakened environmental regulation for the next 31 years. 

"[Harper] just sold us out in a very effective way that locks in his regressive environmental policies, and we will not be able to bring them back without the permission of Beijing," she said. 

"If we change our laws to undo the damage done by the omnibus budget bill C-36 -- if we are to repair the Fisheries Act, put back in place real environmental assessment -- any state-owned enterprise from China that was counting on our weak environmental laws can sue us. They can bring arbitration charges against us, and the hearings don’t have to be made public."

As an example of what would happen in the event Canada was a weaker partner, May pointed to NAFTA's Chapter 11, and said Canada has lost numerous times when the U.S. corporations have sued. 

She said despite the federal government's repeated claims that the China-Canada FIPA is quite similar to 24 similar agreements with nations such as the Czech Republic, this deal was unique because of the Chinese government's powerful role in business deals. 

"This agreement is unlike any other agreements because any investment from China is actually an extension of the politburo of the People’s Republic ...there’s no distinction, really, between the government of China and Sinopec or CNOOC or PetroChina," she said. 

May said she was "shocked" by the timing of the announcement, given that the Prime Minister has been in a legal position to ratify FIPA since 2012. 

"It’s been ratified on a Friday before we return to Parliament," she said. "Previous Prime Ministers would have put this to a vote. NAFTA went to a vote. Harper claims he's created a fairer process because all treaties must be tabled before Parliament, and previous Prime Ministers’ administrations didn’t do that. But the reality is that tabling it without putting it to committee for study and without a vote from Parliament has actually less accountability than any previous government.

May said treaty making is a royal prerogative and can become law through a cabinet order in council  sitting in Parliament for no less than 21 days after the treaty is tabled. 

"But the timing of when Harper chooses to use royal prerogative -- as 'King Stephen' -- to bring in a treaty that sells us out almost doesn’t matter. The tragedy is that it happened."


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