CUPE members who were waiting for clarification today on proposed amendments to the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) at the Council of the Federation press conference will, it appears, have to remain in the dark.
Council spokesperson Premier Jean Charest assured us the amendments are a “broad agreement”. Charest was less eager to divulge details of the proposed tribunal mechanism which would allow corporations to sue governments over regulations that impede revenue, thus pitting public services against corporate profits.
Of interest was Charest’s emphasis on the governments’ need to defend NAFTA and take responsibility for educating Canadians on the advantages and benefits the fourteen-year-old trade agreement. Paul Moist was quick to comment that Canadians have been extremely critical of the impact of NAFTA on jobs and communities. “So,” says Moist, “it is startling that our provincial leaders think that Canadians still need to be educated about NAFTA.”
Moist and other public sector leaders are currently en route to Colombia to meet with workers to discuss human rights’ issues and the impact of free trade agreements on labour in both Canada and Colombia.
While the premiers remain vague about their intentions for the AIT, one can hope the ready endorsement of NAFTA is not indicative of their plans for internal trade in Canada.
“By empowering private businesses to sue governments, the tribunal mechanism proposed by the premiers sets the stage for a labour agreement that is undemocratic. Canadians don’t want NAFTA-like rules in interprovincial trade agreements,” said Moist.
The provinces will amend the AIT by Jan. 1, 2009. From now until then, Canada’s largest union is calling on its 570,000 members to put pressure on governments and fight the threat of an inadequate and irrevocable amendment to the AIT.
Stan Marshall, Managing Director of National Services - 613-286-6568 (cell)