February 15, 2017
Dear Prime Minister,
Please tell me why you passed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement without listening to the concerns of people in this country. With no public hearings, Canadians were not given the chance to give voice to the hardships from a treaty that supersedes national law. From increased costs of the most expensive medicines to loss of manufacturing and processing plants, every concern was diminished in the CETA story as a small price to pay.
Where is the tally record of what makes a good trade deal? Is it the numbers of export to import? Is it the statistics of Canadian companies with potential access to European Union (EU) markets? Even if Canada didn’t have a two-to-one trade deficit with the EU, even if we didn’t just lose our biggest trading partner, England, the free trade story isn’t numbers. It’s real lives. It’s the suffering from countless closures of Canadian factories to compete in cheaper markets. It’s diminishing public infrastructure to align with global trade trends. It’s the community instability that never gets discussed when new trade deals are decided.
If we are to be a nation of sustainable prosperity, the story we need to remember is that we are the most sued country in the first world under the popularizing of corporations-suing-countries with the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. Please Prime Minister, with your care for this nation, and your long familial legacy, how can you forgo transparency on the risks from signing our most comprehensive international commitment.
Please share how it can be said that the CETA creates brotherhood among nations when corporations are granted power to sue nations in a special trade court if their profits are discriminated against. As a feminist, I can assure you there will never be a sisterhood here when the ethos of competition and secrecy permeates negotiations and the only legally penetrating structure of trade is corporations holding nations to account. From NAFTA, there’s Ethyl Corporation’s 13 million, SD Myers’ 5.6 million, Abitibi-Bowater’s 122 million, and many more brought to bear against Canada. Why is this vision good enough for Canadians? Why is trade being used as a platform for corporations to sue nations, and in a context when there’s no comparable mechanism to sue them for harm to local economies and ecosystems.
It has never been a problem that some people will benefit; I’m glad that some large Canadian businesses and farms will, and I wish more could. But why has the government not investigated those who will lose? The CETA mandate will last far longer than that of your elected tenure. In feminism, we call to the table those who are at the margins, those who are most vulnerable. It is their voices that have the most telling experience to share. No negotiator ever went on record to ask the perspective of those of the many who will be forced to pay out of pocket the billion-dollar annual increase in drug costs, the result of extended patent rights to pharmaceutical companies. No negotiator asked Canadian public workers how they might feel to be under contract by foreign private companies, no longer a part of the dignified municipal public service. No negotiator spoke of the movement of over forty city councils that requested formal exclusion from the CETA because they could see how their buy-local power would be restricted. These countless councilors, just like the 3.5 million signatory Europeans, refused to accept that foreign corporations suing for more profit is a good enough vision for the future. Why are trade deals treated as if they are something separate and irrelevant to citizens when they now contain content from every area of public life?
Who will the losers be? Will it be the municipalities who will be forced to open contracts to foreign owners? Will it be the public service workers who will answer to foreign private goals? Will it be the smaller farmers whose fields are abandoned because of too much foreign produce? Will it be indigenous people who’ve fought to protect their lands from more corporate rights, while shamefully, their true treaties are ignored?
The group who is never factored into the equation of trade balances, GDP measures and the competition of numbers that trade discussion has succumbed to, is children. It is the young people of this land, and the young people of Europe, who will inherit a reality where important decisions are no longer made by parliament elect. They will discover that decisions on health care, buy-local, food safety, education, environmental regulation and much more were decided decades earlier in 2017 by signatures of former leaders. We know that trade is no longer about goods, those have flown across the planet up and down, side to side, endlessly. Now trade is about services and how we spend public monies on everything. I want to know why this government thinks that a deal that can only be legally binding to corporate outcomes is good enough for citizens and more importantly, for the children that will inherit this already unstable world.
Forgive the forward voice of this letter. I am aware of the directness of tone. This is a result, not of a lack of understanding for the great responsibility of your role, but an intonation towards the weight upon the generations coming when the CETA, and other trade deals written in this comprehensive style, restrict the power they’ll have to make decisions to protect their lives. I can only imagine the kind of frustration they will face, when they find they cannot mobilize the full authority of their regulatory power, and further be forced to battle untold numbers in corporate lawsuits, because trade deals of this era were short-sited and biased towards the largest corporations in the world. This they will endure in a world of unknown environmental, social and political complexity. It’s for them I write. It’s for them I pray.