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Hundreds of Canadians participated in town hall meetings about the Comprehensive European Trade Agreement (CETA), sponsored by CUPE and the Council of Canadians, in seven cities over the past two months.  The tour focused on the trade deal currently being negotiated by the Harper government with the European Union. Conservatives are rushing forward with reckless haste to sign a deal on CETA by the end of the year.

For the first time, an international trade deal will open public services like water and healthcare to out-of-country corporations.  At the same time, local governments will lose the ability to purchase locally and to set regulations that impact the so-called corporate “right to make profit”. 

The EU wants in,” said Paul Moist, CUPE national president. “CUPE wants to work with all segments of the community to defend the public services our parents fought for, and to expand them for future generations.”

One of the goals of the tour is to draw attention to CETA negotiations that are taking place behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny.

Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians said, “The Harper Conservative government doesn’t want us talking about this deal. They know if Canadians find out what is in this deal, they will oppose it.”

As in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, and Saskatoon, guest speakers helped put a local perspective on how CETA would affect their communities. In Winnipeg, David Jacks from the Canadian Federation of Students spoke about the impact of CETA on post-secondary education.

CETA is the thin edge of the wedge into exploiting post-secondary education in Canada,” said Jacks. “CETA risks the integrity of our post-secondary education research programs, with private companies threatening to sue students who whistle-blow unethical research practices.”

In Halifax Mark Austin, executive director of the Rural and Coastal Communities Network said that CETA “has huge implications for Canada, Nova Scotia and rural Nova Scotia.”

This deal harms our ability to create alternative food systems that are more resilient and sustainable,” said Austin. “It doesn’t look like a trade agreement: it sure looks like a declaration of corporate sovereignty.”

Participants in St. John’s heard from Gus Etchegary, chairman of the Fisheries Community Alliance about the added stress CETA will put onto Canadian fisheries. The collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland was devastating, with 80,000 having to move out of province to find work.

This is the equivalent of Ontario losing 2,000,000 people. Can you imagine what the outcry would have been from Ottawa?” asked Etchegary.

The Canadian government is abandoning its responsibilities to manage the fisheries,” he said.

CUPE has produced a video in both English and French that details some of the negative impacts of CETA.

  • Take away the right of local governments to make decisions and
  • threaten our democracy by putting “corporate rights” ahead of the public good
  • Hand over publicly-owned crown corporations like Manitoba Hydro to private corporations
  • 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 (see attached pdf for the cost by province)
  • Allow big corporations to challenge environmental regulation

If governments make bad decisions, they should be accountable to us, the people, not corporations,” said Moist.

Read the opinion piece by Paul Moist and Maude Barlow published in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.

For more information on CETA, visit www.cupe.ca and go to the CETA page. 

Send a letter to the Prime Minister and add your voice to those of Canadians opposed to this damaging trade deal.

Additional tour cities and dates are being planned for the fall.