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On December 8, to coincide with the presentation by Pierre Marc Johnson, chief Quebec negotiator for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union (CETA), the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale – RQIC) and its partners, including CUPE, delivered a five-meter-high Trojan horse to the National Assembly.

Their goal: to demand that the Charest government reveal the true import of the agreement and ensure that a broad public debate takes place in Quebec as soon as possible.

Among the demonstrators were more than a hundred CUPE members from a wide variety of sectors.

CETA is the most ambitious and disturbing agreement ever negotiated by Canada. Discussed in almost total secrecy, its aims far surpass those of NAFTA. For the first time, important areas of provincial and municipal jurisdiction would be opened to the “free market” and subservient to the power of private investors.

According to the spokespersons from various social organizations in Quebec, the agreement poses a threat to Quebec’s very development model, because CETA opens the door to a number of problems:

  • privatization of public services
  • privatization of water management
  • precedence of private investment and the rights of multinationals over local laws, allowing them to sue a government for any environmental or local development policy that could limit their “right to profit”
  • increased drug costs by delaying public access to generic drugs
  • the takeover of natural resources by the private sector, to meet the needs of Jean Charest’s megalomaniacal projects in Northern Quebec
  • the privatization of certain branches of Hydro-Québec’s operations

The primary purpose of CETA is not to create jobs, nor really to secure the greatest access to European markets.The essential aim of CETA is to attract foreign capital here at home, and to give powerful European multinationals free access to our resources. “But at what cost? And on whose behalf?” These are the resounding questions posed by spokespersons Pierre-Yves Serinet (RQIC), Denis Bolduc (CUPE), Dominique Bernier (ATQ), Catherine Caron (Attac-QC), Louis Roy (CSN), Régine Laurent (FIQ), Lucie Martineau (SFPQ) and Patrick Albert (SPGQ).

The public has a right to know the ins and outs of CETA. The fact that Pierre Marc Johnson has given only two brief presentations since the start of negotiations in 2009 is a real denial of democracy, and it cannot continue.

The people of Quebec are invited to demand a public debate by signing the online petition on the National Assembly website: http://tinyurl.com/petitionaecg.