Why do we need a Parliament when international trade negotiators can apparently change or ignore Canadian laws without reference to the people we elect to make those decisions?
Today, the Trade Justice Network will release copies of the leaked latest draft of the Canada-EU free trade agreement. News organizations and MPs are invited to drop by the Parliament Pub in Ottawa to pick up their copy. You can get yours at this link.
Article X (investment) of the draft treaty, which I have in front of me, includes a chapter on telecommunications. And this is what I find outrageous. Last time I looked, foreign ownership of telecommunications companies is illegal. No foreign company can own more than 20% of the voting shares of a Canadian telecom company licensed under our federal Telecommunications Act.
A few rich families -- Shaws, Péladeaus, Rogers -- and the Conservative government would like to change the law and let foreign capital buy up our telecom sector. Their problem is that you have to change the Telecommunications Act first and all the government has done to date is to float some options for change.
There is no certainty at all that a bill to change the current law would get through Parliament because a majority of Canadians are opposed to foreign ownership, especially now that every private television network in Canada is owned by a telecom company.
Someone forgot to tell the trade negotiators that foreign ownership of our telecom sector is still illegal. They have obviously spent a lot of time negotiating the telecom section of Chapter X, 13 pages setting out the rules by which EU telecom companies would operate in Canada.
In this leaked text, Canada proposes the following language: “measures adopted or maintained by a Party relating to public telecommunications transport networks or services… shall ensure that [enterprises] of the other Party are accorded access to and use of public telecommunications transport networks or services on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions…”
Another key section deals with “interconnections” which would obligate Canadian telecoms to provide access to their networks “at any technically feasible point in the network.” In other words, European telcos would not actually build any networks in Canada. They would just take over the networks we already have in our major cities. (They have no intention of providing services to anyone else.)
The Europeans have some proposals apparently not yet agreed, but set out in the text anyway, which would require that any decision by our CRTC would be subject to appeal before “an independent body.” Presumably, a bunch of trade lawyers would decide what is best for us.
Why is any of this on the table, and who gave these trade negotiators the right to negotiate provisions which are entirely against Canadian law?
Of course we know exactly who told the trade negotiators to go ahead and agree to all of this. And that is all the more contemptuous of our democracy.
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