CETA Debated on Floor of Canadian House of Commons

By Drew Wilson

While we’ve been covering CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) all year, the agreement has recently made a splash in the Canadian media. This is in part due to the fact that the agreement was actively debated in the Canadian House of Commons. We now have a transcript of what was being debated.

CETA appears to have briefly made it into the spotlight in the Canadian media yesterday. On CBC, the agreement was discussed and portrayed as an agreement on the verge of being finalized. However, we know from following this more thoroughly that differences between Canadian and European interests are currently threatening to delay the agreement. So, comments yesterday saying that the agreement is on the Prime Ministers desk is really muddying the waters in terms of what the status is of this agreement.

Today, we have a transcript of what was said in the House of Commons as it relates to CETA. Towards the beginning of Question Period, Liberal leader Bob Rae asked the following:

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I could ask the Prime Minister, in light of press reports, as we have no other information from the minister, about what is and is not on the table in the trade negotiations with the European Union.

I wonder, given the fact that the Prime Minister gave a solemn assurance to the House before and to the people of Canada that the supply management system of this country would be defended by the government in all of its trade negotiations, if he could he give us a categorical assurance that dairy is not on the table and that, in fact, the dairy farmers of this country will not be sold out by the Conservative Party and his government.

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper responded to this with the following:

Mr. Speaker, the government has defended our supply management system successfully in various trade negotiations, and we continue to do so.

In fact, to my knowledge, the only person I am aware of who is suggesting the abolition of the supply management system is a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

Later on, Liberal member Wayne Easter asked the following:

Sadly, Mr. Speaker, Canadians have had to rely on the EU for accurate information on the Canada-European trade agreement.

The latest CETA version, reportedly now on the Prime Minister’s desk, is said to accept European patent protection and therefore impose additional drug costs on Canadians in the range of between $900 million and $1.9 billion.

Will the Prime Minister be honest with Canadians? Is it his intent to sign an agreement that will result in higher drug costs for Canadians?

Gerald Keddy, Conservative Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade responded to that with this:

Mr. Speaker, I reject the premise of the hon. member’s question. As a matter of fact, I reject much of what the hon. member says.

The reality is that our negotiators are focused on remaining issues. We are working on behalf of Canadians. We are working to produce jobs and opportunities for Canadian exporters and Canadian workers, and we will continue to do that.

We did some fact checking on this matter and confirmed that CETA would, indeed, cost Canadian taxpayers roughly $2 Billion each year in additional costs.

There was some action in the media. A think tank said that CETA would cost Canada 3,800 jobs. From the report:

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement could cost Manitoba up to 3,800 jobs.

The think-tank, which says it focuses on issues of social and economic justice, argues the deal could wipe out rules in provincial and municipal government contracts that set quotas for local hiring and purchasing.

The report also suggests any deal could add to an existing trade imbalance, which sees Manitoba export mostly raw material to Europe while importing finished products.

On top of this, the city of Nelson wanting to be exempt from the trade agreement:

Nelson, B.C. – The Council of Canadians and its Nelson chapter are celebrating a decision by City Council last night to demand a permanent exemption for the City from the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Over 40 municipal councils, school boards or associations, including large cities like Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga and Victoria, have sought similar protections.

“We congratulate the City of Nelson for standing up for local jobs and local democracy. This resolution comes at an pivotal moment with European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht meeting with Trade Minister Ed Fast over the next two days to try and seal the deal,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “The truth is there’s no benefit to Canadian municipalities for being shackled by international trade restrictions on their local policy and spending powers. Cities are Harper’s bargaining chips in these EU negotiations – they should have a right to say no to CETA.”

Last night, Nelson councillors voted to ask the federal government for exemption from CETA if it doesn’t conform to seven guidelines from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

As written, the CETA procurement rules would forbid a city, town, school board or other body included in the deal from preferring one bidding firm over another based on how much of the content in a certain project was local or Canadian. CETA would also ban municipalities from considering local development benefits when choosing between different bidding firms, whether they were Canadian or European. It’s up to the Province of British Columbia to decide whether Nelson and other cities will be bound by these rules.

This is certainly showing that there is growing concern about the implications of joining CETA in Canada. More and more people are seeing past the pro-CETA press releases about creating jobs and boosting the economy and actually seeing CETA for what it really is – and the picture isn’t pretty.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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