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Participants in the study session on proposed free trade between Canada and the European Union (CETA) ended the session with a recommendation that CUPE-Quebec leaders take appropriate measures for the Quebec government to demand the exclusion of government procurement” from the proposed agreement.

CETA is currently being negotiated, and could be concluded before the year is out, according to some observers. The next round of talks—the ninth—will be held in Ottawa from October 17 to 20.

Like other civil society groups, such as La Coalition Eau Secours! and the Council of Canadians, CUPE is concerned. As a result of intense lobbying by European multinationals, it seems that Canada has agreed to include government procurement in the proposed agreement. CETA targets Crown corporations and government procurement by central and sub-central governments, such as Canada’s provinces and municipalities. Government procurement refers to all contracts awarded by a province or municipality, whether for water, electricity or any other public service.

During the study session on CETA, held in downtown Montreal, guest speakers were very sceptical of the positive spin-offs from this agreement for Canada and Quebec. Robert Laplante, executive director of the Institut de recherche en économie contemporaine (IREC), explained that the export of tar sands petroleum is largely what is motivating the Canadian government’s desire to reach an agreement with Europe.

Dorval Brunelle, director of the Institut d’études internationales de Montréal and a professor with the Sociology Department of UQAM, described Quebec as a “sleeping province” and stresses that the clauses pertaining to government procurement must be taken out of the draft agreement.