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Twelve major political moments over the next ten weeks

Image: Council of Canadians

The Council of Canadians is engaging in multiple ways in these key struggles with imminent dates over the next ten weeks:

1. NAFTA talks (May 21)
The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will resume on May 7, with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer suggesting a deal will need to be reached within two weeks (May 21) or the talks will be delayed until 2019 after the Mexican presidential election (July 1) and the U.S. midterm elections (November 6). The Council of Canadians has just released a major report on NAFTA's energy proportionality clause worsening climate change and joined with the Canadian Labour Congress, Unifor, CUPE and numerous other allies demanding that the Trudeau government remove the controversial investor-state dispute settlement provision.

2. Bill C-69 (May 22)
The Trudeau government's Bill C-69 -- which would implement a weak environmental review process in Canada, likely exempt new tar sands projects using in situ methods, give a greater role to industry-captured offshore petroleum board, and fail to restore federal protection to lakes and rivers across this country -- will be reviewed clause-by-clause by the House of Commons standing committee on the Environment between May 8 and May 22. Given the House of Commons rises on June 8 (or could be extended to June 22), the push will be on by the Liberal government to pass this inadequate piece of legislation.

3. Offshore drilling (May 22)
While BP has started offshore drilling near Sable Island, Nova Scotia, BP and the local petroleum board are on the defence after a well attended Council of Canadians speaking tour on the risks of offshore drilling that received significant media attention. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) will be meeting with municipalities (May 22), we believe, in response to concerns raised from our tour. The Council will work with local allies to mobilize and respond to the meeting, presenting new evidence of the immediate risks Nova Scotia faces. With over 15,000 signatures (and growing) on our petition, we are strengthening our resolve and planning the next steps to stop offshore drilling Nova Scotia.

4. Kinder Morgan (May 31)
Investors in the Houston-based company will be meeting on May 9 to discuss the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The transnational corporation has also set May 31 as the deadline for the Trudeau government to ensure to them that the pipeline will proceed. Meanwhile, new evidence may be introduced into a Federal Court of Appeal challenge led by seven First Nations that the Trudeau government had already decided to approve the pipeline when it was still supposedly consulting with them. There are also news reports of a federal $2-billion investment in the project or even a $10-billion indemnity.

5. Blue communities in Spain and Greece (May 31-June 8)
We will be granting AEOPAS (the Spanish public water operators network) the status of Blue Communities Ambassadors to launch the Blue Communities Project in Spain at an event in Madrid on May 31 and presenting the City of Madrid with a proposal to become the first Spanish Blue Community. Maude Barlow and Meera Karunananthan will also be speaking at an event as part of the campaign to remunicipalize water and kick Agbar (a subsidiary of the transnational Suez Environnement) out of Barcelona. Barlow will then travel to Greece at the invitation of the Greek Ecumenical Patriarch who is hosting a major event on water with key experts and leaders from around the world, including Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. It is our hope that the Patriarch will be able to announce at that event that Thessaloniki has become the first Greek blue community.

6. Ontario election (June 7)
The writ for the election is expected to drop on May 9 with voting day on June 7. The Progressive Conservative party under Doug Ford is leading in the polls and it has been estimated that they have a 90 per cent chance of forming a majority government. The Council of Canadians is surveying its supporters in Ontario to find out their key election concerns in order to identify questions to be asked at all-candidates meetings, develop materials to help build awareness over the next month, and more. The Liberal government has delayed the formal application process for Nestle's expired water-taking permits, while Ford's family company has Nestle as one of its corporate clients.

7. G7 summit (June 8-9)
The G7 -- which includes U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and French president Emmanuel Macron -- will be meeting in La Malbaie, Quebec this coming June 8 through June 9. Trade and climate change will be among the issues discussed at that summit. The RCMP is now setting up a 'free speech zone' in a vacant lot in La Malbaie behind a 3-metre (almost 10-feet) high fence and almost 2 kilometres away from where the leaders will be meeting. This would be Trump's first visit to Canada. Major protests are now being organized in Quebec City and we are planning a banner action in Bagotville and La Malbaie.

8. Detroit water shutoffs
As of March, there were nearly 20,000 Detroit residents unable to pay their high water bills. Mass shutoffs were scheduled to begin on May 1 and will likely commence soon. The Council of Canadians will be working with allies in Detroit to organize an action to continue to draw attention how the shutoffs starkly violate the UN resolution on the human rights to water and sanitation. The Council and allies in Michigan and the Great Lakes basin will be meeting in person this June to strategize on water justice issues including Nestle water takings, the Detroit water shutoffs, and the Flint water crisis.

9. Fish farms (June 20)
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs has highlighted that the B.C. government will be making its decision on renewing the tenures for 18 fish farms that operate on First Nation territories that expire in June. First Nations have argued that they farms are harmful to wild salmon and that they are in violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Comox Valley chapter has developed a lobbying package for Pacific region chapters to lobby their MLAs in the coming weeks (particularly during May 20 through 25 when they are in their home ridings) to convince them to not renew the permits.

10. Bill C-76 (June 22)
After delaying for seventeen months on Bill C-33, an Act that would have amended provisions to the Harper government's Fair Elections Act -- thus restoring the voter identification card as a valid piece of identification, allowing registered voters to vouch for another voter, empowering the chief electoral officer to conduct public education campaigns -- the Trudeau government has shelved that bill and rolled those provisions into the omnibus Bill C-76 that contains numerous other changes to electoral laws in this country. The acting chief electoral officer has stated that major changes to election laws should have been enacted last month if they were intended to apply to the October 2019 election.

11. Groundswell! (June 22-24)
Council of Canadians chapter activists from across the country will be gathering at Carleton University in Ottawa on June 22-24 to share updates on all the campaigns noted above, bring forward information about a host of local and regional struggles, and prepare for the fights ahead in the coming months. One of the keynote speakers at the annual conference is Kanahus Manuel. She is from the Secwepemc Nation in British Columbia and a prominent opponent of the Kinder Morgan pipeline (518 kilometres of the 1,150 kilometre pipeline would cross her territory.)

12. United Nations High-Level Political Forum (July 9-18)
Ministers and heads of state from around the world will be gathering at the UN that week to discuss progress and implementation strategies on the Sustainable Development Goal on water (SDG 6) among others. We are presenting a report we wrote critiquing the World Bank's efforts to promote privatization through the SDGs. Our contacts at UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs have put Barlow's name forward to speak at the ministerial forum and Karunananthan to speak on a panel at the 'local authorities forum'. We  will also be presenting our report at several civil society side events.

Also immediately ahead of us is:

  • A day of action -- with events in Ottawa, Halifax, St. John’s, Winnipeg, Mississauga and Happy Valley-Goose Bay - against the Muskrat Falls dam on May 7;
  • House of Commons trade committee hearings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that could start as early as May 10;
  • Increased opposition to the Site C dam in northern B.C., including the Paddle for the Peace action in early-July;
  • A Schedule 2 exemption being granted by the Trudeau government for the Sisson open-pit mine at the headwaters of the Nashwaak River;
  • An agreement between the Trudeau government and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to expand the Safe Third Country Agreement;
  • A decision by Enbridge on its Line 3 pipeline following a Minnesota court's decision that would add more than $1 billion to the cost of the project;
  • An imminent decision by Wisconsin that would allow a Taiwan-based transnational corporation to take about 7 million gallons of water a day out of Lake Michigan and outside of the Great Lakes watershed.
Brent Patterson is the Political Director of the Council of Canadians.

This article originally appeared on the  Council of Canadians blog

Image: Council of Canadians

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