CUPE National President Paul Moist joined a group of national organizations in signing a statement urging the premiers to reject an amendment to NAFTA that would eliminate the ability for local governments in Canada to give a special preference to local suppliers. The statement was released today to coincide with the meeting of the Council of the Federation in Regina this week.
“Municipal and provincial governments choose to buy from local suppliers for a lot of reasons. They do it not only to create jobs and support Canadian businesses in their communities, but also because they want to support ethical suppliers, reduce environmental impact, or pursue social goals like minority hiring.” Moist said. “It is wrong for the Harper government and premiers to try to take those choices away from local communities.”
Due to a concern about “Buy American” provisions in the U.S. stimulus bill, the federal government is pushing for a new trade agreement that would prohibit local governments from setting local purchasing policies. On June 9th, the Premiers indicated support for the idea and the matter will be considered at this week’s meeting of the Council of the Federation.
“The U.S. has had ‘Buy American’ provisions in its federal laws since 1933. Local preference purchasing is widespread in municipalities and at the state level throughout the U.S. It seems pretty unlikely the U.S. will agree to give all that up even if Canada volunteers to. Canada may end up tying one hand behind its back, while receiving very little in return.” Moist said.
“Communities facing rising unemployment have every right to insist that local jobs be created with local tax dollars. Why wouldn’t we use every tool at our disposal, including local procurement policies, to get people back to work as soon as possible? The premiers should reconsider their support for this very bad idea”
In addition to CUPE, the group statement on local purchasing has been signed by the Alberta Federation of Labour, the BC Federation of Labour, the Canadian Auto Workers, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Council of Canadians, the Quebec Federation of Labour, the National Union of Provincial Government Employees, the Northern Territories Federation of Labour, the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, the United Steelworkers, the Polaris Institute, and the Yukon Federation of Labour. Scroll down to read the entire statement.
A statement on public procurement
We believe that governments have a right and a duty to use public procurement as a tool for economic development, environmental protection and job creation. Therefore, we oppose the expansion of “free trade” deals to encompass more public procurement.
In response to “Buy American” policies, the Government of Canada has announced its desire to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to restrict provincial and municipal procurement. Such a step would abolish the rights of local and provincial governments to support local or Canadian suppliers, set minimum local content rules for materials or services on major projects, adopt ethical and environmental purchasing policies, enforce commitments to hire workers locally, or require companies winning public contracts to reinvest a portion of revenues or profits in Canadian communities.
U.S. federal, state, and local governments have successfully implemented “Buy American” procurement policies for more than 75 years. Today, in the midst of an economic recession, it is perfectly justified that U.S. taxpayer-funded stimulus funding should be used to stimulate local economic development.
Rather than attacking these successful and popular “Buy American” policies, Canadian governments should increase and speed up funding for public infrastructure projects and attach “Buy Canadian” conditions to this funding.
The opportunity exists to recognize integrated industries by negotiating managed trade agreements and sectoral arrangements with the United States. Such arrangements could provide mutual exemptions from procurement preferences for products manufactured in highly integrated industries.
We oppose expanding NAFTA to cover all sub-national procurement and the related effort to negotiate a “free trade” deal with the European Union that would also bind sub-national governments to NAFTA-like restrictions. This approach would drain needed stimulus from the Canadian economy, worsen the current crisis in manufacturing and interfere with provincial and municipal governments’ authority to provide and regulate local services.
In closing, we call upon provincial and local governments to reject any federal proposals that would eliminate or restrict their ability to ensure that public procurement policies maximize benefits to the local and Canadian economies.
Canadian Union of Public Employees, Alberta Federation of Labour, the BC Federation of Labour, the Canadian Auto Workers, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Council of Canadians, the Quebec Federation of Labour, the National Union of Provincial Government Employees, the Northern Territories Federation of Labour, the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, the United Steelworkers, the Polaris Institute, and the Yukon Federation of Labour.