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Harper government bullying provinces to accept EU trade deal

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The Council of Canadians is demanding to know which other provinces have been bullied into accepting unreasonable conditions in the Canada-European Union trade deal after news that federal funding for a hydro project in Newfoundland and Labrador was tied to the province removing minimum processing rules in the fisheries.

"We always suspected the Harper government would bully the provinces into submission to EU demands in the Canada-EU negotiations and now we have hard proof," says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians. "Minimum processing rules are vital to the Atlantic fisheries and we are glad to hear the Dunderdale government is not willing to sacrifice them. But the public needs to know right now which other provinces have been bullied in this way, for what policy changes, and which ones caved in to federal pressure."

According to news reports, Premier Dunderdale told the St. John's Board of Trade that Prime Minister Harper's former chief-of-staff Nigel Wright phoned her to suggest the province could get a $1-billion loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls hydro project but only if she was willing to get rid of local processing requirements on fish caught in provincial waters.

"A bigger question we need to ask ourselves is what kind of trade deal asks provincial governments to give up their ability to get the most out of fishing, or any other industry for that matter, by requiring some processing here in Canada? Where else will our economic options be reduced or eliminated so Harper can get his new corporate rights deal with Europe?" asks Trew.

The Council of Canadians is opposed to the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which leaked texts have proven to be only minimally related to actual trade across the Atlantic. New intellectual property rights will extend patents on pharmaceutical drugs, an investment protection chapter will give EU firms even more opportunities to sue Canada for environmental and public health policies they don't like, and municipal governments will be banned from buying local.

"Quite simply, the past few weeks, and now this news from Newfoundland, have given us no reason to trust the Harper government to do the right thing in the CETA negotiations. He should make the entire agreement public and let the people decide if it's worth the kinds of radical policy changes the EU is demanding in exchange for modest new market access to the European market," says Trew.

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