Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, warns of the dangers inherent in this trade model, stating that “if it goes through, CETA will open up the rules, standards and public spending priorities of provinces and municipalities to direct competition and challenge from European corporations. Ottawa refuses to even discuss the environmental implications, but a recent trade sustainability impact assessment commissioned by the European Commission has sounded alarms in several areas.”
CETA will threaten a lot of what Canadians value most – our natural resources, our public healthcare, and our democracy – by encouraging privatization of water and social services in Canada.
A Council of Canadians memo, “CETA and Water: Turning a Public Good into Private Profits,” further notes that the push for privatization has already failed: “Experiments with water privatization have failed all over the world to the point that there is now a growing trend in Europe, the United States and Latin America is to remunicipalize both private and public-private partnerships (P3) water projects. Water privatization fails because accountability disappears, water rates go up, workers are laid off, and service levels decline.”
Another unsettling aspect of CETA is the investment protection rights it will extend to multinational corporations. Corporations will be able to sue governments for loss of profits when public safety or environmental rules get in the way of their plans. Our local governments will be banned from trying to rely on local products, and they also want to privatize our public transit.
The Council of Canadians explains the dangerous consequences of including investment protections in trade agreements:
“When Stephen Harper settled with AbitibiBowater last summer for $130 million– the largest NAFTA settlement in Canada’s history – he created a trade precedent that essentially privatizes Canada’s water resources. National Treatment clauses in NAFTA and CETA could force our federal and provincial governments to recognize a ‘right to water’ for other corporations that rely on our most precious resource to produce goods.
Take the Alberta tar sands for example, which use at least three barrels of water to extract each barrel of bitumen. Efforts to reduce water use in tar sands production could lead to investment challenges under CETA by EU-based oil and gas firms increasing their presence in Canada. At the same time, Canada will be able to use these investment protections to sue the EU for its progressive climate or environmental policies that limit the Harper government’s ambitions to make Canada an ‘energy superpower.’ The investor-state dispute process is not just a threat to Canadian policy. It is used extensively by companies to challenge environmental decisions in the developing world.”Despite the red flags surrounding having privatization, deregulation, and investment rights at the heart of trade agreements, the Conservative government remains intent on passing CETA with no public input—once again valuing corporate interests above the interests of Canadian citizens.
What can we do?
We can demand transparency by sending letters to our provincial government demanding to see the offers they will put on the table during CETA negotiations (see the Council of Canadians Action Alert on this).