New coalition in Prince Edward Island concerned over Canada-Europe trade deal

Teresa Wright
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Lori MacKay, representing CUPE, speaks out against the new trade deal between Canada and the European Union during a news conference held in Charlottetown.

Trade, social justice and environmental groups in P.E.I. have banded together to raise concerns over the Canada-European trade agreement and how it could have serious negative impacts for the province.

The coalition of 23 local groups held a news conference in Charlottetown this week, calling the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) the most intrusive that Canada has ever signed.

Lori MacKay, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) for P.E.I., says one key concern is around local procurement policies.

“There’s not too many things that are more significant to the private sector in Prince Edward Island than access to local government contracts, but the European demands would make it impossible for provinces and municipalities to use government spending as a job creator or a local economic development tool,” she said.

“This would mean that when awarding contracts, a local government would not be able to put provisions on a contract, like minimum Canadian or local content…or even buy-local campaigns.”

Other areas cited as potentially threatened by CETA are the province’s agricultural industry and health-care system. The coalition also believes the deal will limit or remove the government’s ability to create jobs, support local businesses and negotiate benefits for Islanders from companies investing in the province’s resources.

Speakers at the news conference addressed topics such CETA’s negative effects on the dairy industry, supply management, the cost of drugs and the fishing industry.

The coalition emphasized it was not against trade but expressed concerns over the nature of free trade agreements such as CETA and NAFTA.

Coalition members stated their belief that these agreements are mainly about expanding the rights of multinational companies, while reducing the ability of provincial and municipal governments to pursue policies that benefit local communities and everyday citizens.

That’s why they have written to the premier, asking him to champion the idea of a review of this agreement. They would like a standing committee to examine the CETA and engage in public consultations across the province.

They also would like to see the Canada-European trade deal debated in the provincial legislature.

They’ve asked the provincial government to outline what exemptions, or reservations as they’re called in CETA, P.E.I. has designated to protect important policies from the effects of the agreement.

“This network of groups came together about concern about the secrecy, concern for the erosion of democracy, concern about our government having it’s hands tied and not being able to govern as we want it to,” said Cindy Richards of the Citizen’s Alliance of P.E.I.

“Islanders deserve to know what is in the deal and in particular need to know what reservations that Ghiz government has taken to protect important policies such as renewable energy, owner/operator and fleet separation and public transit.”

Organizations: Canadian Union of Public Employees, Alliance of P.E.I.

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • JP
    March 07, 2014 - 07:55

    Yup. Cause I totally trust unions to tell me what's good for the economy.

  • Jack
    March 07, 2014 - 00:01

    Same old PEI NIMBY. Any wonder PEI has always been, and will continue to be, an economic basket case, bailed out by the West.

  • Tony Reddin
    March 06, 2014 - 23:36

    As the trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, Stewart Trew writes: “Canada’s experience under the investor ‘rights’ chapter in NAFTA has been pitiful. We have lost or settled half a dozen lawsuits from U.S. companies against public policies, including environmental decisions, costing the public more than $160 million in damages and who knows how much in lawyers’ fees. Canada is facing billions in current investor-state disputes, including a $250-million lawsuit against a fracking ban in Quebec. We should be asking ourselves why we put up with this in NAFTA – not how we can make things much worse by giving European companies the same right to sue in CETA,”

  • Garth Staples
    March 06, 2014 - 16:00

    Same old crowd with same old defeatist attitude. Why do they suggest we Islanders are inferior to the rest of the world?

    • Rosalind Waters
      March 06, 2014 - 19:38

      Actually the defeatist attitude is to presume that we can do nothing to stop these trade and investment agreements which are more about investment protection and meeting the needs of the economic elite than about tariff reduction. Perhaps Garth should study some of the investor/state arbitration cases which show how these agreements are used to sue developing countries for billions of dollars whenever they bring in really sensible environmental protection legislation to protect their drinking water from mines and extraction industries. Phillip Smith, a Swiss tobacco company has just sued Uruguay under a trade agreement like the CETA for 2 billion dollars because they introduced one of the most successful smoking reduction strategies in the world. That's a plain example of corporations using these agreements to bully governments which introduce public policy which they don't like. Profoundly undemocratic.

    • Ron Kelly
      March 06, 2014 - 22:17

      Same old Garth Staples with same old inaccurate assumptions. Why is standing up for yourself and your democratic rights seen as defeatist? And where was the suggestion made that Islanders are inferior to the rest of the world? Do you have shares in the multinational companies that will benefit from these agreements, Garth?