Thursday, November 17, 2011

Secretive CETA threatens corporate enslavement

If you care about your elected municipal government reflecting community values, then pay attention – because CETA threatens to take those rights away.
CETA stands for Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, currently being negotiated between Canada and the European Union. Hidden behind closed doors, indications are that its terms will weaken our democracy by putting corporate rights first, restricting the ability of municipalities to control their own procurement policies, or provide public services.
CETA could do away with our city’s right to use any criterion besides lowest price when tendering supply contracts. Barrie is a Fair Trade City, a commitment to fairly source coffee and tea. Under CETA, that could be gone. Barrie is considering alocal food policy – again, CETA could kill that.
There has been much discussion lately about mandating an in-town provider for towingservices. Some suggest the city adopt a “buy local” policy, to create local jobs. To support better jobs, Barrie could require contractors and suppliers to use union labour. CETA could trump all of these initiatives.
Another scary thought is the possibility that CETA would force municipalities to privatize basic services like water. I support municipalities’ right to decide whether to provide services in-house, or contract out to private companies. But I object to a treaty that forces us either way. Our locally-elected representatives must have the right to follow voter priorities and community values.
Don’t get me wrong – I support trade, and the prosperity it brings. But only true free trade, where each side of the deal is free to say yes or no, and has equal powers and rights. I’m against so-called “free trade” which actually takes away either side’s rights to set their own terms and choose trade partners based on them. Any trade deal which forces one party to accept the terms of the other, or forces them into unwanted trade, is the opposite of free. Deals like these make us, and our representative governments, slaves to narrow corporate interests.
I applaud our City Council for recently passing a motion of caution on CETA, and the work of provincial and federal municipal associations and groups like the Council of Canadians in shining light on these issues. To protect our rights to choose community values over lowest price, and prevent corporate enslavement of our public sector, we must be vigilant and refuse to knuckle under to deals misrepresented as “free trade”.
One way to keep abreast of this issue is to attend meetings of the local chapter of the Council of Canadians, who meet at 7 pm at the Barrie Public Library (Georgian Room), on the second Wednesday of each month. Find out more at

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "CETA deals are misrepresented as 'free trade' "
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of the Ontario School of Economic Science and founding member of Earthsharing Canada.

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