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This agreement, negotiated behind closed doors, will be bad for Quebec and Canada. This sums up what the speakers told the crowd gathered in downtown Montreal on Tuesday night at the first in a series of public information meetings. Other meetings will be held in a number of major Canadian cities.

Speaking in turn, Claude Généreux, Maude Barlow and Claude Vaillancourt dissected the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). According to them, if CETA is signed, it will:

  • Threaten our democracy by putting corporate rights first
  • Encourage privatization of Canada’s drinking water and wastewater services
  • Threaten local job creation and “buy-local” policies
  • Cause prescription drug costs to skyrocket by at least $2.8 billion per year ($800 million in Quebec)
  • Allow big corporations to challenge environmental regulations

Negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union began in 2009 and are expected to be completed this year. An entire chapter of the agreement could be devoted to government procurement. According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Coalition Eau Secours!, the Council of Canadians and other groups, the inclusion of procurement in CETA is a threat to public water services and will have a negative effect on their quality and cost.

From the outset, Claude Généreux of CUPE pointed out that CETA aims to open the market for our public services to large foreign companies. “But it will be a fool’s bargain,” he warned, adding that Quebecers and Canadians will have nothing to gain from this. “Public monopolies such as Hydro-Quebec and the SAQ will be regarded by foreigners as unfair competition,” said CUPE’s second in command. But you’ll see there will be no mention of private monopolies.”

Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians cited the example of AbitibiBowater in Newfoundland, a company that received support from public funds. “The Harper government gave them over $130 million,” she said. She predicts that this type of situation, where taxpayers are the ones to suffer, is likely to recur if CETA is ratified.

Claude Vaillancourt focused on the loss of power by our governments if the agreement goes ahead. He launched an appeal for mobilization. “We have real power.This agreement is not inevitable.We need to mobilize, to transmit as much information as possible to the people we know and to insist on transparency in these negotiations.”

Looking for a quick CETA 101 course? There is an excellent file on CETA (in French) on the Coalition EauSecours! website.