Sunday, March 13, 2011

Minimizing Our Sovereignty:

Few Canadians realize how much power, decision-making ability, and economic control our governments have already surrendered to corporations, the US, and elsewhere through free trade and other agreements.  Harper is taking this further at a rapid rate with little consultation – or information.

1a) The Conservatives don’t want to alienate their corporate allies by toughening up foreign takeover rules.  They also don’t want Canadians reacting to the fact that their have been almost 12,000 takeovers since Mulroney opened Canada up for “business” – meaning that decision-making and profits leave the country, and jobs, pensions, benefits, and wages are cut. 

1b) Saving the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, for obvious political reasons, was a notable exception. About 97 percent of foreign direct investment is used to buy established companies, not create new ones.  Are Bombardier, Suncor, Research in Motion, and Magna vulnerable? 

2) Canadian business has another reason to worry.  CETA, the “free” trade deal with the EU, will allow Europe’s largest corporations access to provincial and municipal contracts.  (As Mayor Ford privatizes Toronto’s garbage.)

3a) The Harper Conservatives have made a lot of noise about their desire to protect Canadian sovereignty in the north.  However, if you look closely, the government is not worried about the future of ordinary citizens in the region.  As Maude Barlow points out, there has been a “free for all” drive to exploit our resources – from oil to mining ventures – much of it done by transnationals, which don’t have Canadian interests at heart. At the same time, Harper has used Arctic sovereignty as an excuse to buy those $30 Billion fighter jets.

3b) Harper’s push to exploit Artic resources was given a boost by a $100-million fund to kick-start the geo-mapping searches for minerals and oil and gas deposits, showing that the Conservatives see the ravages of climate change more as an economic opportunity than an environmental crisis. "We know from over a century of northern resource exploration that there is gas in the Beaufort, oil in the eastern Arctic and gold in the Yukon,” said Harper. ''There are diamonds in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and countless other precious resources buried under the ice, sea and tundra … As I've said before, 'use it or lose it' is the first principle of sovereignty in the Arctic.”

3c) “Canada's sovereign claim to its Arctic regions will be evaluated by the UN in 2013. They will be looking to assess the "use it or lose it" philosophy espoused by Harper himself. A government intent on establishing Canada's Northern sovereignty needs to support our Northern peoples where and how they live. Saving our North cannot be just a military exercise or a question of ice breakers, as appealing as that is to Conservative sensibilities. It requires comprehensive, climate change mitigation and adaptation measures and social and economic supports so that our Northern peoples can use the North broadly in their daily lives. We need to reframe this debate. If we really want to defend the North (to use the Conservative militaristic terminology), we don't need jets as much as we need to fight climate change and the social and economic issues that plague the North.” Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell

4a) Harper wanted us to join the US in its disastrous invasion of Iraq.  It will be more difficult to say “no” in the future.  He is now negotiating a secretive “perimeter security” agreement with the United States, creating what has been called a “big vision of North America as an economic, environmental, and security unit.”  

4b) This includes increased amounts of exchanged data (remember Maher Arar?) harmonizing rules and regulations (recall bovine growth hormone), practices for screening offshore imports and travellers, and close collaboration on immigration, border protection, and law enforcement.  The border is “thinning.”

5) On February 14 of this year, Canada and the U.S. signed an agreement, paving the way for the militaries from each country to send troops across the other’s borders during an emergency.  Although the Harper government and Canadian Forces were silent on this, the U.S. Northern Command went public. Stuart Trew, a researcher with the Council of Canadians, said this deal could militarize civilian responses to emergencies, pointing out that work is also underway for a Canada/US plan to protect common infrastructure, such as roadways and oil pipelines. “Are we going to see (U.S.) troops on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road?” he asked.


  1. Thanks to the Trade Justice Coalition:
    "Under cover of a federal election, European Union trade negotiators will be in Ottawa April 11-15 to continue trade talks with the provinces and federal government on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The deal on the table will have a considerable impact on jobs, farmers, municipalities, public services, and democratic governance. It will shape what future governments can and cannot do to guide economic development, create jobs and protect the environment." Get to know more about CETA!

    " big business doesn’t like publicly-run services, or
    the regulations that protect them. To them, public services are
    just one more thing to make money on. The CETA threatens
    to privatize and deregulate many of our public services. In
    fact, everything could be up for grabs, including municipal water
    systems, electrical utilities — even our mail delivery!

    European corporations want unrestricted access to the purchasing that our
    provincial and municipal governments do ...

    The province of Ontario now has the best renewable energy plan
    in all of North America. Called the Ontario Green Energy Act, its
    goal is to make Ontario a major producer of renewable energy,
    and a manufacturing centre for renewable energy equipment, like
    solar panels and wind turbines. The act has provisions to support
    local businesses and ensure that new high-paying green jobs are
    created in Ontario. But European corporations don’t like those
    restrictions. So E.U. negotiators are trying to force changes to
    Ontario’s Green Energy Act under the CETA ...

    E.U. trade negotiators have requested that drinking water services be
    included in the CETA, opening the door for large European multinational
    water companies to stake a claim in Canada’s public water
    systems. Under the CETA, companies would gain
    unprecedented access to municipal water services and
    maybe even a claim to the water itself.

    The E.U. has made it clear: they want all of our public
    services covered by the CETA — including health care. The
    trade deal will expose Canadian medicare to privatization
    pressures more than past free trade
    deals did ...Worst of all, under the rules
    of NAFTA, we’ll have to offer
    the same access to private health
    corporations from the United

    Free trade agreements over the past few decades have contributed hugely to the global ecological crisis we
    find ourselves in today — global warming, depletion of natural resources, collapsing ecosystems,
    and global food and water crises ... The CETA
    will allow transnational corporations to ignore or challenge
    our environmental regulations, and it will impede our
    government’s ability to make new ones. Canada should be
    strengthening its environmental laws and honouring
    its commitments to existing international
    environmental agreements — not
    making more free trade
    agreements that guarantee corporate rights.

    ...we have laws
    requiring telecom and broadcasting companies to be majority
    owned and controlled by Canadians (foreign investment is
    allowed, but only up to 47 per cent). But CETA will remove
    this restriction, allowing foreign companies to control
    Canadian broadcasting and communications services ... Foreign control of our broadcasting will mean less
    Canadian content on our TVs and radios, and that threatens
    our cultural identity ... Our laws ensure basic telecom services
    are provided to everyone — including Canadians living in remote areas. But that may change if
    foreign corporations gain control of our telecom services, and cut services that are not profitable
    without regard to our needs ...

  2. The CETA continued:

    ... the right
    of Indigenous peoples to “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” before
    any development happens on their lands is often not respected federally
    or provincially. Mining, oil extraction, dam construction and other
    environmentally destructive economic activities often take place on or
    close to Indigenous people’s lands without their informed consent.
    ... The CETA would undoubtedly run up against
    Indigenous rights as all trade agreements do, by giving corporations added
    powers to get their way, developing where and how they want ...

    Canada has a huge trade deficit with the E.U. That means we import more goods and services from the E.U. than
    we export to them. In 2008 we imported $17 billion more in E.U. goods than we exported, and a lot of this
    was in high-end goods like autos. Our trade deficit in services was also large — $4 billion in 2007.
    This is a sign that Canadians are being deprived of good-paying jobs
    in manufacturing, technological innovation and high-end services.
    The CETA will likely make this situation worse. Prime Minister
    Harper’s vision for Canada is to make us a global energy and
    resource superpower. He wants to open up foreign markets to
    increase our exports of raw materials like oil and petroleum
    products, diamonds, gold and other metals. But remember,
    Canada has already lost over 550,000 good-paying manufacturing
    jobs in recent years. Putting more focus on the resource sector will
    only hurt our manufacturing even more ...

    negotiators are planning to give transnational corporations and foreign
    investors the right to sue our governments over policies or decisions that
    they feel prevent them from making profits — even if those policies or
    decisions are in the public’s interest! It’s NAFTA all over again. That free
    trade agreement has the infamous “Chapter 11” which allowed many
    such lawsuits and challenges to Canadian laws by foreign investors. Who
    pays the suit if the government is found guilty? We do — the Canadian
    people!! With our taxes!!