1. Trans Pacific Partnership
First and foremost, the TPP likely needs to be killed dead. Wikileaks has been revealing details of the secret TPP from time to time since at least 2013. There are many very serious threats to the people of Canada and the other eleven countries who signed the deal this October. (See list below for just some threats). These threats are enabled by the extraordinary power given to foreign corporations (mostly in the U.S.) by the deal’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement Agreements (ISDS Agreements) to sue nations for expected future profits if their legislatures enact laws or operate public institutions that are deemed to affect their profits. Canada has first hand experience of these lawsuits since it has been involved with the U.S. and later Mexico in NAFTA. This legal, but immoral, right to sue has cost Canada and Mexico, but not the U.S., millions in lawsuits. The TPP is incredibly more pervasive and involves 12, not just 3 countries. More and more Canadian businesses and institutions, such as small farmers and the CBC are directly under attack from the TPP – a much larger group than under NAFTA, which at least had some provisions to protect our water and our farms. It is very likely that Canadians ourselves, and likely even most MP’s, will not see the details of this deal.
The argument that Canada is better in than out of this deal sounds powerful, but deceives us. This deal will provide very few Canadians with good, stable jobs that offer a package of benefits. NAFTA at least protected our auto industry but other U.S. firms no longer had to manufacture or do research here in order to sell in Canada. Shortly after the free trade deal with the U.S. in 1987 Caterpillar closed its plant in Brampton, Ontario and fired 90% of its workers. Ten per cent went to North Carolina with Caterpillar’s manufacturing. Bye bye. Trade deals that began in 1987 between Canada and the U.S. and expanded to include Mexico in 1994 have not preserved quality manufacturing jobs. Canada’s manufacturing as a per cent of GDP, and the good jobs with benefits that go with it, has fallen from 24% in the 1960’s to about 10% in 2015. As for Canada’s pathetic decline in research and development this article in the Tyee is worth reading. With the TPP the victims in the 12 TPP countries will be the general population. The winners will be those highly placed in the foreign corporations who conjured up this deal in secret. The poor in all twelve countries will become destitute, except for a small fraction of educated English speakers who will form a small lower-middle class.
In years past, Canadians and others aware of this grave corporate threat took to the tear-gassed streets and successfully defeated monster trade deals like the MAI. The ‘better in than out” choice is a false one. Rather, all 12 countries should present this deal accurately to their electors; then its defeat would be certain.
Some issues with the TPP:
Investor-State Dispute Settlements, as mentioned above, allow foreign corporations to sue countries and cities for billions of “lost future profits” if they enact legislation to protect health care, the environment, jobs, wages and democracy and these actions affect their “sacred” right to profits forever.
Temporary Foreign Workers: Foreign corporations that procure TFW’s probably will be able to sue for lost income if Canada cuts numbers of TFW’s permitted to work here. This is already being done in a case about McDonalds. And Canadian Seafarers are threatened and fighting back. TFW’s are themselves abused and are already being inappropriately used to prevent Canadians from making a just wage.
BGH: American milk and meats use Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), suspected of being associated with cancer. We probably will be exposed to this?
Food Safety: Canadian standards on food safety will likely be further weakened by the TPP.
Labeling: Will Canadian products still be identified in supermarkets? I doubt it.
Public services: Wikileaks revealed that TPP pushes for the elimination of publicly funded institutions like the CBC and Canada Post. These leaks are notably absent from discussions even on the threatened CBC!
Bank Deregulation: Will banking regulations be weakened?
Privacy: Canadian privacy, already blown away by C-51, will be further jeopardized by this agreement, which will force internet service providers to track our activity.
Job Losses: Canadian jobs will likely be lost in large numbers to workers from countries with lower wages, labour standards and non-existent unionization.
2. Bill C-51
Clayton Ruby, a distinguished lawyer and activist who has been practising law since 1969, believes Bill C-51 should be completely thrown out and rewritten. It is a catch-all list of vague but serious offenses that can be gratuitously applied to acts that are really quite innocent. It permits dirty tricks. It can turn an innocent article or speech, by abuse of its ill-defined powers, into an “act of terrorism.” Justin Trudeau cannot invent a system of oversight to guard against abuses possible with such a plethora of vague possibilities that have not been properly classified. This article gives some excellent examples of how irretrievably defective this bill is. It must be rewritten into something that can be easily and clearly reviewed by whomever are given the responsibility of oversight.
3. Truly Proportional Representation; Not PR-lite!
There are only two types of proportional representation currently used that are truly proportional: Party List Proportional Representation and Mixed Member Proportional Representation. Tom Mulcair has suggested one of them: Mixed Member Proportional Representation, used by Germany and New Zealand. Party List Proportional Representation is used by over eighty countries worldwide. See my post on PR here.Justin Trudeau should confer with his counterparts in parliament and pick one of the above systems. There are various minor ways in which different countries have modified the two choices. The Canadian people must be educated about the importance of replacing our FPTP system with whichever system will ultimately be selected. This is the job of parliament. The committee that looks into selecting PLPR or MMPR (MMP) should be composed mostly of members from the parties that proposed this reform: the NDP, the Liberals and Elizabeth May.
Note: Instant Runoff, also known as Alternative Vote is NOT proportional representation! It will betray the continually frustrated supporters of the Greens and the NDP- the very people that gave the Liberals a majority despite receiving less than 40% of the popular vote.
Since 68% of Canadian voters elected to vote for a party that included electoral reform in its platform, parliament has total authority to pass legislation to enact it.
There must not be a referendum on this! It is time Canada moved confidently to a truly proportional system. Parliamentarians on October 19th were given a strong mandate to do this for us.
No need to re-invent the wheel. Beware of attempts to dilute, adulterate or corrupt this very important reform of our electoral system.
By the way, if the TPP with its ISDS agreements is ratified, our improved electoral system will mean nothing, since foreign corporations will hold us to ransom and voting will be a farce, because our leaders will be no more than puppets. That’s why killing the TPP is numero uno – the sine qua non.
4. Other Stuff
There are many other important tasks for what will be a truly busy four years. Ferreting out and removing the bad bits squirreled away in Stephen Harper’s many, huge, undebatable omnibus bills will be an unenviable task. And the Liberals must act to prevent existing infrastructure of public institutions like the CBC from being sold:
- Harper reduced Canada’s protected lakes, rivers and waterways from 2.5 million to a mere 159 in Bill C-45.
- Dozens of laws in over 10 Huge Harper omnibus bills have decimated the powers and rights of our indigenous peoples. What I call “buckshot legislation.”
- CBC infrastructure must be preserved by immediately dismissing most of its current Board of directors, 80% of whom are Conservative Party contributors appointed by Harper. These party hacks plan to sell all CBC buildings!
5. Hopeful Congratulations to Justin Trudeau
All the above being said, I’ll admit I’m nervous about Mr. Trudeau’s recent cautious avoidance of the term Proportional Representation, his voting with Harper on C-51 and his unequivocal pro-trade stance. But he really seems to be setting out an ambitious agenda for the first half of his mandate. I have not been this hopeful for over a dozen years.
Congratulations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. You have already changed the world’s perception of Canada for the better. You have slain Cerberus in grand style. You hold the future of my grandchildren in your hands. You can be greater than your father.