rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Quebec Solidaire reaches across the Atlantic for a progressive alliance against CETA

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

RQIC protest against CETA. Photo: Yves Provencher/Métro

Change the conversation, support rabble.ca today.

Quebec Solidaire, a social movement-based political party in the provincial legislature, has written to progressive European parliamentarians for assistance in forming a common resistance to the Canada-EU free trade deal (CETA). The letter was sent on the same day as news reports suggested Quebec Premier Pauline Marois could oppose the Canada-EU deal if the province's interests are not protected. Quebec trade justice activists profited from the new attention to the CETA negotiations by staging an action outside of the provincial trade minister's offices in Montreal on Tuesday.

"First and foremost, CETA undermines the essence of our democratic rights," write Françoise David and Amir Khadir in their joint letter to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). They warn that the agreement "would substantially change the face of Europe and Canada, given that no sphere of activity escapes the accord's reach. It would change not only the rules regarding public tenders, job protection and environmental standards, but also our policies in areas ranging from food production to the protection of culture, as well as telecommunications, water and natural resources… all this in order to favour the interests of big private investors."

In particular, the Quebec Solidaire legislators say that from a provincial standpoint, CETA would:

- endanger our sovereignty and our democratic institutions by placing business interests first. The CETA chapter on investments would be a copy of NAFTA's controversial Chapter 11, which enables companies to sue governments for entirely legitimate measures such as environmental protection;

- allow large corporations to circumvent or challenge regulations regarding the environment and job protection, such as buy-local policies;

- attack all cultural protection policies, because notwithstanding the UNESCO negotiated agreement, there will be no guarantee of exclusion of cultural goods and services. Once negotiated chapter by chapter, this exclusion will be virtually toothless;

- provide unreasonable protection of intellectual property rights that would, among other examples: i) increase the cost of prescription drugs by close to 3 billion dollars a year to the benefit of multinational pharmaceuticals; ii) undermine individual freedoms by forcing Internet providers to reveal to rights holders the contact information of persons suspected of downloading. It should be kept in mind that this regulatory measure contained in ACTA has hereby surfaced again in CETA, even though it had been rejected in Europe;

- facilitate the privatization of drinking water and waste water management services.

The two legislators conclude their letter:

Given this situation, we feel it is urgent to request your advice to help build a parliamentary resistance strategy in Europe, as well as in the Canadian, Quebec and provincial parliaments and to define common demands for major changes in the direction of this agreement. For this to happen, it appears crucial to us to pressure public authorities (national governments, provinces, territories, landers and municipalities) to withdraw their support for CETA negotiations until the public, European parliamentarians and national parliaments have had the opportunity to study the European Union-Canada agreement in detail and proposed desired changes.

Khadir posts a French version of the Quebec Solidaire letter in his January 28 blog entry.

Also on Monday, CBC reported that "Quebec could throw a monkey wrench into any free-trade deal between Canada and the European Union if it's not satisfied with the treaty's contents." Premier Marois told a news conference after her World Economic Forum speech in Davos, Switzerland on Monday that her government could make implementing CETA difficult if it encroaches too much on provincial jurisdiction.

"At one point, when it comes to certain principles with which we are unable to live or agreements that have an impact on our market that is unacceptable, well, I don't think we should give up," she said. Specifically, Marois said supply management was a no-go area for her government, but Quebec will also want to protect the rights of Hydro Quebec to spend public money strategically, or in ways that are designed to encourage local development or local job creation. The premiers' statements prompted a response from International Trade Minister Ed Fast, also attending the corporate schmoozefest.

"The position we have taken is that we will sign a trade agreement only if it is clearly in the interests of Canada," Fast said. "For us, it's not the timing that matters most but the quality of the agreement."

On Tuesday, Quebec trade activists with the RQIC network staged a protest outside the Montreal office of Jean-François Lisée, Quebec's trade minister. Flanked by the now familiar five-metre-tall Trojan Horse, the activists expressed their concern that the Marois government has too easily adopted the stance of the former Charest Liberals on the Canada-EU trade negotiations. RQIC spokesperson Pierre-Yves Serinet asked what use the political sovereignty of Quebec will be if all other forms of sovereignty -- economic, social, cultural, energy and food -- are compromised by CETA.

European Trade Minister Karel De Gucht told the media this weekend that he will travel to Canada next week (February 6 and 7) to try to strike a final deal with Canada. On his way there, De Gucht would stop in Washington, D.C. for the possible release of a High Level Working Group report that will encourage the EU and U.S. to begin their own "comprehensive" free trade negotiations.

The EU Trade Commissioner's visit to Canada seemed to take the Harper government by surprise, with Minister Fast telling a media conference in Nigeria that, "I have not committed to a firm time line. We're not going to be rushed into a deal that doesn't serve Canadians." Fast is currently on a trade mission to Africa.

Photo: Yves Provencher/Métro

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.