CETA negotations

April 24th, 2011

Dear Premier McGuinty,

In spite of parliament being in campaign mode for a federal election, the negotiations for the largest trade agreement Canada has ever been involved in, are continuing. From April 11-15th the EU negotiators will be in Ottawa for the critical seventh round of free trade talks towards finalizing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) . We, the public, have no idea what is being negotiated on our behalf.

We have reason to believe that policies that cover the following (as investment opportunities for the EU and multinational corporations), are being included:

  • public drinking water and sanitation, public health care including health services, health insurance and pharmaceuticals,
  • public transit and energy,
  • sustainable local purchasing strategies of our municipal governments, school boards, Crown corporations and other public agencies.

These may be steered away from favouring locally sourced products and services when spending public money. Local hiring may not be the cheapest so will not be preferred. These are all domestic policies and should not be treated as trade policies.  Any alterations should be discussed publicly and in the legislature.

With regard to pharmaceuticals alone, a new trade agreement with the EU that may extend the patent on drugs by fifteen years would cost Canadians an additional $2.8 billion annually. In Ontario, that would be $1.2 billion annually. Also, the CETA provisions for intellectual property rights are entirely unnecessary and should be rejected by the province. The heavy lobbying by brand name pharmaceutical companies (EU and American multinationals) claim that research and development need this money, but there is ample evidence that they do little research in Canada and indeed most of their money is dedicated to marketing. The patent protection and data exclusivity are not in our best interest.

With regard to health care, how will CETA affect home care, elder-care, long-term care, local hire, private insurance and private clinics?

Health care is a larger proportion of the fiscal pie because the pie is smaller. How will CETA with its emphasis on profits affect this current problem?
With regard to water and food security, how will CETA affect our local supplies and services? Hamilton privatized its water and waste utilities in the 90′s and it was a disaster.

We insist that these CETA negotiations should be frozen during this federal election. The public needs to see what is on the table now before the bargaining goes any further. Public forums should be held across the country and every politician should be in the debate on the CETA since it is the largest trade agreement we have ever negotiated. CETA’s emphasis on investment opportunities for big pharmaceutical businesses, for private health insurance companies and other multinational corporations will compel massive changes to the way we live. The right to sue for loss of investment opportunities will profoundly affect our way of life and security.

We need a sector by sector analysis done as soon as possible.
We need an impact assessment for each sector.
We need to see the list of services and measures that are being exempted.
We need to know who the contacts are that are representing the provinces.
And we need democratic debate on this agreement.
More information can be found at www.canadians.org/healthcare

Sincerely yours,
Norah Chaloner for Council of Canadians, Guelph Chapter

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Dear Norah:

Thank you once again for contacting my office regarding the CETA negotiations. My staff has done some research and has found some information which you might find of interest. Please note that the Ontario government is aware of concerns regarding the possible elimination of government procurement “Buy Local” provisions at the municipal and provincial level. These concerns are currently being discussed between the Ontario government and the province’s municipalities. It is also important to note that Ontario is already subject to procurement commitments under the Agreement on Internal Trade that prohibits the use of buy local policies for purchases of goods over $25,000 and construction and services over $100,000. The broader public sector is also subject to similar commitments under this agreement. The Ontario government also has commitments under the recent Canada-US procurement deal that restricts buy local policies for large contracts by ministries and some agencies.

In addition, I would also like to address the issue of municipal procurement, water rights, and free trade agreements. The Ontario government has continued to consult the municipalities throughout the agreement negotiations, including in the area of municipal government procurement. The province supports the inclusion of provisions in the Canada-EU agreement that protects the province’s rights to its natural resources. In addition, growth in Ontario’s international trade has significant benefits for the province’s businesses and labour market. A 2006 study found that a $1 billion increase in Ontario’s merchandise exports would increase Ontario’s GDP by roughly $1 billion and add nearly 11,500 jobs.

If you have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact my office once again.

Sincerely,

Liz Sandals, MPP-Guelph

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