European Union to run Canada’s municipal water system?

Sunday, August 1, 2010 , Posted by TJ at 8:01 PM
By News on the Net: Lesley Spence Sunday, July 25, 2010
Dear Helena Guergis;
I’m writing about the proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA.

Recent news articles and reports that I’ve seen indicate this deal would offer few if any benefits to Canada. European companies would be the winners; at costs Canadians cannot afford.
Nothing that I’ve heard from government or business advocates has convinced me that this deal with Europe makes sense. Neither group have very much to say about where the real benefits are for Canadians. They merely say that free trade is good and everyone who disagrees is wrong. That is neither sound trade policy nor sound economic policy.
This week, the Toronto Star reported on a new legal opinion about CETA. The EU has insisted that drinking water services be included, opening the door for European multinationals to “stake” a claim in Canada’s municipal water systems. “The most serious threat to public ownership and control of water arises from the risk of private entities being able to establish a proprietary claim to the water itself,” the report says.

That legal opinion also says European negotiators are hoping to make it impossible for Canadian cities to buy or hire locally under any circumstance, even when doing so offers more economic or social benefits than picking the lowest cost bidder.
There are a lot of groups questioning this agreement, including farmers, workers, environmentalists, citizens groups and civic-minded think tanks like the Columbia Institute, which released the report on cities by Mr. Shrybman. We need open and honest debate on Canada’s trade policy before we are stuck with a new European deal that doesn’t make sense.
I encourage you to read through Mr. Shrybman’s legal opinion on CETA, which recommends that the federal government:

1. undertake and publish a thorough, timely and objective assessment of both the costs and benefits for municipalities of the CETA agenda;
2. provide an explanation of which sectors are most likely to be the principal beneficiaries of CETA, and how the purported benefits of this trade deal are to be distributed;
3. engage in effective consultations with municipalities following these analyses and before negotiations are pursued further; and
4. allow sufficient time for municipalities to solicit public comment from those potentially affected by present proposals.

These recommendations seem reasonable; I ask that you take them on as my federal representative.

Why are Canadian negotiators even considering sacrificing the freedom to source locally in this trade agreement with Europe? For example, why is the federal government thinking of giving away the ability of the municipalities to spend public money in ways that benefit the local community and promote sustainable development?

What benefit could there possibly be in doing such a thing? How will cities, provinces, workers, water and the environment be impacted across Canada by this European agreement? We need answers to these questions and the time to debate those answers as a country, before anything is signed.


Lesley Spence
Elmvale ON

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