© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
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.”