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Hamilton passes second CETA motion, wants immediate briefing on Canada-EU trade deal from Ont. government

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This week, Hamilton City Council passed a second motion on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, re-stating its preference "to be excluded from the CETA," and requesting "an immediate briefing from the Provincial Government on the status of the Canada-EU trade negotiations and how municipal governments will be affected."

The motion from Councillor Brian McHattie (pictured) passed with only one amendment from Councillor Scott Duvall that the federal government also send a representative to brief City Hall. It comes only a few weeks after several Toronto city councillors wrote to new Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, "requesting that you convene a meeting with Provincial staff and relevant officials to provide a briefing to City Council and City staff regarding the position of the Province of Ontario regarding the CETA negotiations and how you will address the concerns of municipalities such as Toronto."

Given the late stage of the CETA negotiations, and the likelihood that municipal governments are covered by its procurement and public services restrictions, the Hamilton motion and Toronto letter offer two new examples of how communities across Canada can demand accountability from the provinces. We encourage trade justice activists to pass similar motions in their communities, or to ask their councillors to send similar letters to provincial premiers in the next few weeks. For more information on CETA and municipalities, please see our activist toolkit.

Municipal backlash

More than 45 municipalities and several municipal associations (ex. Union of B.C. Municipalities, Northwest Territories Association of Communities) have requested exemptions from the Canada-EU trade deal. In particular, cities and towns are worried about CETA procurement rules which will ban "buy local" programs (ex. local content rules on big projects, requirements for public buildings to source food locally where possible, etc).

These motions also worry about how CETA would encourage the privatization of municipally delivered services, and make it difficult and very expensive to bring privatized water, energy or transit systems back into public hands in the future. CETA will essentially lock in the status quo, such that expanding or creating new public services, or remunicipalizing private services, could attract expensive investor-state disputes from private utility companies in Europe.

Yesterday's CETA motion in Hamilton stresses that in December 2011, Council asked the Province to "disclose its initial procurement, services and investment offers to the European Union (EU), explain the impacts the (CETA) would have on municipal governance, and give the Municipal, University, School and Hospital (MUSH) sector entities the freedom to decide whether or not they will be bound by the procurement, investment and regulatory rules in the agreement."

The motion adds that the Ontario government "has so far failed to disclose this information, or to communicate with the City of Hamilton or other Ontario municipalities about the ongoing CETA negotiations and the Provincial procurement offers in particular." This is important, says the motion, because leaked European Commission documents in November say Canada's municipal procurement offer is "highly satisfactory" to European negotiators, but that the EU continues to push for full coverage of transit, energy and regional development spending.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast recently briefed the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on the CETA negotiations, claiming that "communities would still be able to use grants, loans and other fiscal incentives as well as set rigorous local criteria for procurement contracts." The first part of that sentence may be true, but it is demonstrably untrue that there will be room in the deal for covered municipalities or other public agencies to set local criteria on public contracts in covered sectors. The CETA procurement chapter, which was leaked in its finished form months ago, clearly prohibits this. The EU would not be "highly satisfied" if this were not the case.

Take action: All municipalities deserve an immediate briefing on CETA

Where the federal government is sidestepping municipal concerns about CETA, the provinces are ignoring them completely. But municipalities are agencies of the province -- provincial governments owe it to them to come clean about CETA.

If your community has not yet passed a motion asking to be excluded from CETA, it's not too late. We provide tools on how to go about it right here. If you live in a city or town that has passed a CETA motion already, it's time to increase the pressure on the provinces to explain what our communities will have to give in the Canada-EU trade deal, and to give them a real opportunity to affect the negotiations before it's too late.

Click here to see the Hamilton CETA motion from March 20.

Click here to read the letter from Toronto city councillors to Premier Wynne.

To read our CETA toolkit for municipalities, click here.

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