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New coalition launched to challenge CETA in Prince Edward Island

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As reported in the Charlottetown Guardian, "Trade, social justice and environmental groups in P.E.I. have banded together to raise concerns over the Canada-European trade agreement and how it could have serious negative impacts for the province." The 23 member organizations launched the provincial petition at a press conference last week.

"There's not too many things that are more significant to the private sector in Prince Edward Island than access to local government contracts, but the European demands would make it impossible for provinces and municipalities to use government spending as a job creator or a local economic development tool," said Lori MacKay, president of the PEI Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), at the launch.

"This would mean that when awarding contracts, a local government would not be able to put provisions on a contract, like minimum Canadian or local content…or even buy-local campaigns."

According to Guardian article, other speakers, which included Council of Canadians chapter activist and board member Leo Broderick, addressed CETA's other negative effects on dairy farmers, the cost of pharmaceutical drugs and the fishing industry. You can read a CUPE press release about the launch here. A February 14 op-ed in the Guardian by CCPA Senior Trade Researcher and PEI resident Scott Sinclair also details the main issues in CETA for the province.

The coalition stressed it is not against trade but "that these agreements are mainly about expanding the rights of multinational companies, while reducing the ability of provincial and municipal governments to pursue policies that benefit local communities and everyday citizens."

"This network of groups came together about concern about the secrecy, concern for the erosion of democracy, concern about our government having it's hands tied and not being able to govern as we want it to," said Cindy Richards of the Citizen's Alliance of P.E.I., as reported in the Guardian.

On February 26, the PEI coalition personally handed Premier Robert Ghiz a letter asking him to do the following:

1. Champion the idea of a democratic review of the CETA.

2. Release to the Prince Edward Island public the text of the CETA.

3. Hold extensive public hearings across the province on the CETA.

4. Introduce the CETA for debate and vote in the PEI legislature.

5. Establish a PEI legislative committee to receive public input and to examine the impact the CETA would have on Prince Edward Island and Canada.

There are calls for CETA transparency and democracy in other parts of Canada, too. On February 21, the Comox Valley Chapter of The Council of Canadians also sent a letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark, Trade Minister Theresa Wat and Comox Valley MLA Don McRae. It read in part:

We are calling on you, as the appropriate members of the provincial government, to initiate a public review of CETA. We ask that you allow all levels of policy makers and residents of the province to contribute to a discussion about whether the costs of CETA balance the returns and whether it is appropriate for B.C. We are seeking assurance from you, as key representatives of the B.C. government, that the government will not ratify this agreement without a full public review.

And last November, the Winnipeg Chapter of The Council of Canadians marched against CETA through downtown with University of Winnipeg students, and delivered a letter to Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger saying:

This is the time for the Manitoba government to provide opportunities for Manitobans to learn more about the deal from many sources; a time to ensure that Manitobans are able to comment on the deal; a time to listen to Manitobans.

This is the time for the Manitoba Government to insist on a broad and meaningful public review and consultation on CETA.

While the provinces have been involved in the CETA negotiations more so than past Canadian trade deals, their ability to influence the final outcome is an open question. But there is no doubt at all the provinces should be engaging the public more than they have on the implications of CETA for provincial policy, services and local democracy. 

Consider sending a message like the one to PEI Premier Ghiz to your own premier. If you are not a member of the Council of Canadians but would like to get in touch with a local chapter to see what you can do to help push back against CETA and other unfair trade deals, click here to see a list of contacts across the country.

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