Tuesday, 19 April 2016

New PowerPoint on the TPP and CETA

CETA and the TPP will affect all levels of society for generations.  Download our PowerPoint presentation and learn more about how these trade deals will impact jobs, the economy, democratic governance, and judicial sovereignty.

 After you download the file, go to the Slideshow tab and click 'From beginning'. Click through to navigate the slides.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

What Public Consultation on the TPP?

We went to a federal government-organized ‘public consultation’ on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that the general public didn’t seem to know about. Here's what went down.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Face it Folks. It's a Corporate Coup

Here's a synopsis of why we believe  that Bruno Marcocchio’s Jan. 19th letter to the Telegram opposing trade agreements hit the nail right on the head.  


Saturday, 30 January 2016

It's not just Lefties that dislike the TPP!

"10 years from now we'll call it (the TPP) the signature worst thing in policy that Canada's ever done."  To find out why former Blackberry  co-chair,  Jim Balsillie, feel so strongly about the TPP click here.
“10 years from now, we’ll call [the TPP] the signature worst thing in policy that Canada’s ever done” - See more at: http://theindependent.ca/2016/01/29/why-you-need-to-know-about-the-tpp/#sthash.5BpbdB8p.dpuf
“10 years from now, we’ll call [the TPP] the signature worst thing in policy that Canada’s ever done” - See more at: http://theindependent.ca/2016/01/29/why-you-need-to-know-about-the-tpp/#sthash.5BpbdB8p.dpuf
“10 years from now, we’ll call [the TPP] the signature worst thing in policy that Canada’s ever done” - See more at: http://theindependent.ca/2016/01/29/why-you-need-to-know-about-the-tpp/#sthash.5BpbdB8p.dpuf
“10 years from now, we’ll call [the TPP] the signature worst thing in policy that Canada’s ever done” - See more at: http://theindependent.ca/2016/01/29/why-you-need-to-know-about-the-tpp/#sthash.5BpbdB8p.dpuf

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Three New NAFTA Lawsuits that Canadians Should be Worrying About

From an article published in The Independent  Jan 13th, 2016

Abitibi Bowater is at it again.

In 2010 the company squeezed $130 million out of Canadian taxpayers after the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador expropriated Abitibi’s hydroelectric assets in Grand Falls-Windsor and took back water and timber rights.

The company threatened to sue Canada under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), prompting the Harper administration to settle out of court.
This all went down after Abitibi chose to pull out of the province and used the excuse of imminent bankruptcy to give minimum compensation to workers and pensioners, while paying nothing toward cleaning up the environmental damage it had caused. 

The company never did go out of business; after emerging from bankruptcy proceedings under a new name, Resolute Forest Products, it was business as usual on the mainland.  
This time the company closed down a mill in Shawinigan, Que., and is again suing under NAFTA because, it claims, a competing mill in Port Hawkesbury, N.S. was given an unfair trade advantage when it was subsidized by the Government of Nova Scotia.

The Port Hawkesbury mill closed in 2011 but was purchased by Pacific West Commercial for $33 million and reopened one year later with the guarantee of provincial government aid of approximately $12 million a year over a 10-year period. Today more than 1,000 people in Cape Breton are employed by Port Hawkesbury Paper.  

In addition to claiming direct losses of around $70 million, Resolute Forest Products is seeking unspecified consequential damages that could ultimately mean much higher compensation.

What’s wrong with this lawsuit?

At first glance, this lawsuit might appear reasonable to some. That is, until one considers two important points.

First, the original argument for including an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in NAFTA was to prevent governments from discriminating against foreign corporations in favour of local businesses. There is a loophole in NAFTA, however, which allows Canadian corporations to register in the United States and then claim they are American for the purpose of suing Canada. This can be done as a mail box company in the state of Delaware, for instance.

Resolute Forest Products’ head office is in Montreal and, according to the company’s website, the “vast majority” of the forests where it harvests trees are in Canada. Doesn’t this suggest that Resolute—like Calgary-based Lone Pine Resources, which is currently suing Canada for $118.9 million USD as a result of Quebec’s decision to ban fracking in the interest of protecting the natural environment—is really a Canadian company in American disguise? 

Secondly, the Resolute Forest Products lawsuit could be a ‘back door’ challenge to the whole idea of subsidies. This is a new, and very significant, twist because trade agreements generally don’t attempt to eliminate government’s right to use subsidies to stimulate local economies. Even wildly pro-free trade governments haven’t argued for that.

For example, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) did not in any way address the huge subsidies European countries give to their fishing industries. This is why Newfoundland and Labrador’s acquiescence to the elimination of the its minimum processing requirements (MPRs) that former governments had designed to protect local communities and local workers was very shortsighted, even with the $280 million MPR federal compensation fund.  

What the Resolute Forest Products lawsuit suggests is that we now have very limited options when it comes to leveling the very uneven playing field that exists in the international fisheries. We can apparently forget the concept of provincial subsidies or bailouts to help local producers and local jobs, as they can be challenged by industry players in other provinces who happen to have European affiliates or have registered in the United States.

The Resolute Forest Product lawsuit shows how trade agreements can generate far-reaching consequences that governments never anticipated. Canada, in particular, has not been very smart in its pursuit of trade agreements. Just our NAFTA lawsuits alone have gained us the dubious distinction of being the most sued developed country in the world. The United States, by contrast, has yet to lose a NAFTA lawsuit.

You can find information about the other two lawsuits at


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Great video on free trade deals (like CETA and the TPP)

"The video - narrated from the perspective of business supporter of free trade agreements - highlights that trade and investment agreements increase corporate power, erode state sovereignty, weaken democratic authority and are central to the neoliberal framework of privatization and deregulation. It also notes the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision that affords foreign corporations the right to sue for compensate when public services are expanded or when privatization is reversed." 

Read more about the Council of Canadians and Common Frontier video here.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Citizens Against CETA to Participate in Days of Action Against CETA

We teamed up with the St. John's chapter of the Council of Canadians to make this video to bring CETA -- and the considerable European grassroots opposition to it (2.7 million and counting petition signatures) -- back to the limelight in an election race that's mostly ignored the issue.

Citizens Against CETA is joining with other local groups and activists across the country in days of action against CETA. Sept 25 and 26 take action to spread awareness about the downsides to CETA (i.e., weakening environmental policies, making it easier for corporations to sue governments for loss of profits, allowing the privatization of public services, bypassing local democracies).

Visit the Council of Canadians website to learn more about how to take action: http://canadians.org/ceta-days-action

------- Below is A selection of our article published in the Independent! 

There is near silence on what is probably the number one problem facing young people today — finding a decent job.

According to a 2015 report by theCanadian Labour Congress, “nearly three quarters of the jobs created in Canada over the past six years have been precarious —- part-time, temporary, or in the self-employed sector,” and upward of “a million Canadians have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet.”

Canadian Association of University Teachers President Robin Vose said last year that the fact that more than one third of post-secondary instructional staff are now casual labourers “is a societal problem.”

Then there’s underemployment.

2014 report published by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers found that “only about 30 per cent of employed individuals in Ontario who held a Bachelor’s degree or higher in engineering were working as engineers or engineering managers.” 

As for unemployment, Statistics Canada reported that at the end of 2014 for every job vacancy in Canada there were five people looking for work.

Could the root causes of our increasingly dismal employment landscape have something to do with another issue our three major parties are choosing to ignore?

Free Trade and the Loss of Local Jobs

The best example of how free trade has led to job losses comes from the automobile industry.
Back in 1965 Canada and the U.S. negotiated a free trade deal called the Canada—United States Automotive Products Agreement, a central and highly successful tenet of which was that automotive production levels be proportionally maintained in Canada. By 1980 the “Auto Pact” was responsible for the creation of 100,000 automotive jobs in Canada and at least as many more in supporting industries.

Everything changed with the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA allowed cars produced in Mexico—where labour costs were much lower—to be sold in Canada free of import taxes or tariffs. Gone was the proviso that production levels had to be maintained in Canada. Delighted auto manufacturers began closing their Canadian plants and relocating to Mexico where they could earn bigger profits.

The massive Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated with Pacific Rim countries and will further pressure both Canada the U.S. to open up tariff-free markets for car imports. If North American car producers relocate as a result of the increased competition these cheaper imports will create, the economic impact would be severe. Automotive sales—almost entirely to the U.S.—are still our second biggest export, after oil.

Of course, Canada’s automobile industry isn’t the only one that has been hit hard by tariff reduction. Unable to compete with cheap imports, a significant number of Canadian manufacturing and hi-tech companies have either shut down or relocated abroad.

Attempts to build new industries to replace those that have disappeared are proving difficult for governments. When Ontario put a feed-in tariff on wind projects that didn’t have a 25 per cent made-in-Ontario component, the WTO sided with the EU and Japan by ruling these tariffs were unfair. Government intervention in the marketplace to help stimulate job and industry growth doesn’t fit with mainstream economics’ neoliberal obsession with free trade.

Read the full article on The Independent: http://theindependent.ca/2015/09/24/the-missing-election-issue-free-trades-assault-on-jobs/

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

CETA: Market Ideology Obscures Consequence

From a letter published in the Telegram  on June 3, 2015

In his letter to the editor on CETA, Derek Butler of the Association of Seafood Producers asserts that the market should determine whether or not we export our fish processed or unprocessed.   He makes a comparison with our desire and expected right as consumers to have access to fresh, unprocessed fruit. 

If it was European consumer demand for unprocessed fish that drove the elimination of minimum processing requirements, he would have a valid point.  But we didn’t give up minimum processing requirements because European consumers wanted unprocessed fish.  We gave it up so that powerful fishing corporations in European countries could do the processing. 

We’re not taking about a free market here with a level playing field.  Instead, it’s a market that will unfairly disadvantage our workers in favour of theirs, thanks to massive EU subsidies that remain untouched under CETA.

For the last couple of years the provincial government has been granting some limited or temporary exemptions to minimum processing requirements.  As an opponent of CETA, we have no problem with these decisions.  Government should have the flexibility to react to immediate market problems in the fisheries.  But CETA takes away that right.  Under this trade agreement we will never again be allowed to implement MPRs no matter how much demand there is for our fish.  That’s the real problem.  CETA is an assault on our right to govern.

We find it interesting that our provincial government still doesn’t get that point.  In last week’s announcement they asserted that CETA was, aside from the MPR debacle, a good deal for the province.  The downside, be it the straitjacketing of our regulatory capacity, the risk of offshore lawsuits, the  cost increase for drugs, the end of the right to favour local economies, the expected increase in Canada’s trade deficit, (and so much more) is never to be acknowledged.  Our ruling politicians adhere to the simplistic idea that trade with the EU has to be good,  regardless of the terms. “The Market” apparently always knows what’s best for us. 

We live in an age where Ideology increasingly trumps rational analysis.  To whose benefit is this?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

May 6th, 2015

Here's what we had to contribute to the Newfoundland and Labrador  Fracking Panel that is accepting submissions up until June 1st.

To: Members of the NLHFRP Fracking Panel

What are the risks of investor-state lawsuits if we allow fracking?

I’m writing on behalf of a St. John’s based group, Citizens against CETA, to present arguments against allowing fracking to take place in Newfoundland and Labrador. Our focus is not the potential environmental and health effects of fracking, but rather the risk they bring of investor-state lawsuits.

Investor-state lawsuits are permissible under the auspices of trade agreements like NAFTA and take place in independent, offshore tribunals. There are no permanent judges in these tribunals and judgements are decided by three lawyers, appointed each time a corporate investor chooses to sue government. Neither is there an appeals process, which is particularly alarming given that independent studies have revealed that corporate bias and conflict of interest are inherent to these tribunals.

If Newfoundland and Labrador go ahead with fracking the ensuing legal costs for our provinces could be very high. Here’s why:

Fracking companies use investor-state lawsuits: There is already fracking litigation under NAFTA. Lone Pine Resources, a Canadian company with registration in the US, is suing Canada for $250 million because of the Quebec government’s decision to impose a temporary moratorium on fracking.

Suing governments has become an industry in itself: The likelihood of a corporate lawsuit is much greater than in the past. That’s because hedge funds and other financial institutions are increasingly offering to finance the corporate share of lawsuits in return for a percentage (usually between 30-50%) of the settlement or damages awarded. Mining companies are the most frequent users of investor-state lawsuits worldwide.

Damages awarded can be huge: Increasingly, damages are based on the estimated loss of future profits. The largest award to date is $2.3 billion against Ecuador for cancelling the operating contract of an oil company in the Amazon region.

Canadian and NL laws count for nothing in these tribunals as judgements are based on treatment according to the language in the trade agreement(s). For example, in February of this year a NAFTA tribunal awarded Exxon Mobil and Murphy Oil $17 million in damages after our province tightened up requirements relating to their research and development spending in this province. What most people aren’t aware of is that three levels of Canadian courts had already rejected the corporations’ argument that they were being unfairly treated. The Canadian courts cited the oil companies’ responsibilities under the Atlantic Accord as their reason for denying them damages. That argument counted for nothing in the NAFTA tribunal.

Who will pay the costs? It is Canada, not the provinces, that has to pay the the costs of investor-state lawsuits because it is the federal government that is sued, even if it is a municipal action that causes the lawsuit. However, the federal government has served notice that it will find ways in the future to reclaim costs and damages from the provinces.

Will the federal government defend us against lawsuits? They did not do so in the case of the Abitibi-Bowater dispute, in spite of a request from the province. The result was a $123 million settlement.

What will be the impact of CETA? If the CETA trade agreement between the European Union and Canada is ratified, the risk of investor-state lawsuits will be made greater as CETA’s environmental regulatory protection is weak. That will encourage lawsuits. Over half of the investor-state lawsuits worldwide so far have been filed by European corporations.

If our province allows fracking and then tries to back out or tighten up regulations at a future date we risk very costly lawsuits in tribunals with dubious legal and ethical legitimacy. Where are the long term benefits of fracking that would justify this undermining of the Canadian judicial system and possibly cost us huge amounts in damages?

Marilyn Reid
for Citizens against CETA

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Failure of Trade Agreements & Investment Liberalization over the last 25 years

Ascent of Giants, the 60+ page 2015 study by Jordan Brennan, contrasts what we are told about the benefits of trade agreements and investment liberalization with the much more negative reality reflected in meaningful statistics.  He highlights the lackluster growth, under-investment and weak employment results of the post NAFTA period.  All of that adversely affects ordinary Canadians, particular young workers locked into precarious employment. Meanwhile, intense corporate merger activity since NAFTA has led to the growth of huge firms, increased corporate investment abroad and enormous CEO salaries.  Brennan demonstrates the correlation between the above and increasing inequality in Canada. Here is a summary of his main points.

The rationale sold to us for trade agreements

TAIL (Trade and Investment Liberalization) through trade agreements like CUFTA (Canada-US) and NAFTA (Canada-US-Mexico)  were sold to us on two grounds: necessity and prosperity

  • Canadians were told that technological change meant that production and markets were globalizing, and should Canada not secure predictable access to the U.S. market it would be relegated to the periphery of the global political economy
  • The Economic Council of Canada forecast a 1.8% boost in employment. The federal Department of Finance predicted a boost to long-term economic performance, including a long-term increase to inflation-adjusted GDP of 3%.
  • The explicit assumption was that gains from TAIL would be shared with workers in the form of higher wages
Statistics that show a reality different to the neoliberal rationale for TAIL

GDP:  In the quarter-century to 1988, GDP grew at a per capita rate of 2.8%.  Since then the rate has halved.

Employment:  In the quarter-century to 1988, the rate of growth of private sector employment was 2.4%.  Since then it has halved.  Although it appears that unemployment levels fell during the 2000s (after having risen in the 1990s), when we take into account the rise of precarious work, (contract, part time, etc.), unemployment has remained higher than in earlier postwar decades.

Inequality: Income inequality rose sharply over the last 20 years and correlates highly (.91) with the rise in corporate power.  At one end are the very high executive salaries, at the other end, the low wages associated with precarious employment.  Good paying jobs are disappearing for most new workers.  (In the last decade 520,000 manufacturing jobs alone have been lost.)

Trade:  In 1988, Canadian exports amounted to 26% of GDP.  By 2012 Canadian exports were only 30% of GDP, down from 44% in 2000.  (A probable reason for the growth of exports in the 1990s was the low value of the Canadian dollar.) The two largest exports by far to the United States are oil and automobiles.  In the case of oil it is demand that drives exports, not lower tariffs through NAFTA.  The Canada-US Auto Pact explains why automobile exports to the U.S. are high.

How do we explain the disjuncture between the omnipresent cheer-leading for “free trade” by the Canadian intellectual class and the negative investment, employment and growth performance in the TAIL era? If trade flows are falling, investment has lessened, employment growth has worsened and GDP growth has slowed, why the unrestrained euphoria for more “free trade” agreements like CETA?

1.      Control of the NAFTA message by dominant, very large                      corporations

Commentary on the 25th anniversary of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) and the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has tended to proceed in three steps.

  • The commentator begins by trumpeting the virtues of the agreements, loudly proclaiming that its advocates were wise to counsel such a shift in policy.
  • Commentary proceeds to deride those who raised questions about the deal or who opposed it, declaring (by fiat) that “the debate is over,” usually without providing sufficient evidence to substantiate the assertion.  
  • The commentator often concludes by trotting out a few exhausting clichés about the glorious future Canadians can expect courtesy of the “free trade” agreements currently under negotiation.
2.         The failure of  our intellectual  class to challenge the corporate              message

  • The Canadian intellectual class has failed to engage in a debate about the merits and demerits of the TAIL regime.
  • Contemporary economic thinking seriously constrains the range of permissible questions and the content of acceptable answers.  In particular, economists don’t want to look at the reality of power, preferring to talk about the ideal of free markets and level playing fields..  Political Scientists, on the other hand, ignore markets.

Why have TAIL and Trade Agreements not led to increased GDP and employment?

1.     Corporations have failed to invest in fixed assets in this country.

  • In the quarter-century to 1988, the rate of growth of business investment in fixed assets, a key driver of GDP and employment growth, averaged 4.8%.  That has been halved since 1988.

2.        Large corporations have chosen, instead, the Mergers and Acquisitions             route.

  • In the three-quarters of a century from 1914–1988, for every dollar spent on building new industrial capacity an average of 23 cents was spent on M&A. In the quarter-century since 1988, for every dollar spent on expanding industrial capacity an average of 93 cents was spent on M&A — a four-fold increase.
  • The four fold Increase in mergers and acquisitions under TAIL is a phenomenon of big business.  Small and medium size corporations don’t engage in M&As.
  • There is a logical progression to this acquisition process.  Large firms first merge in their industries, which means less corporations supplying a broader sector.  Next is the formation of multi-unit, vertically-integrated, nationally-embedded firms. In the final stage large corporations seek acquisition targets in other countries.

3.       Large corporations are increasingly hoarding their money.

  • Instead of investing in fixed assets, corporations now hoard in preparation for mergers and acquisitions.  
  • Between the early 1960s and the early 1990s the stockpile of corporate cash averaged 4% of assets but this nearly tripled (to 11%) between 1990 and 2012. 

4.         Large Canadian corporations are choosing to invest abroad rather than              in Canada.

  • In the quarter-century to 1988 the stock of Canadian direct investment abroad (CDIA) averaged 8% of GDP. In the quarter century since 1988 the stock of CDIA peaked at 40% of GDP in 2009.  
  • Put another way, in 1960 the profit of Canadian corporations was almost entirely domestic in origin, with foreign profits representing just 5% of total profit. A long-term rise in foreign operations followed, with foreign profit reaching a high of 47% of total profit in 2010.

The Winners and the Losers under TAIL

The Growth of Dominant Firms, increasingly internationalist in scope
  • There is now an enormous concentration of corporate profits and wealth among the large firms.
  • In 1950 the largest 60 firms in our country accounted for 29% of total corporate profit, which was little changed in 1993 (30%) on the eve of the NAFTA. By 2011 it was 58%.
  • In the early 1960s the largest 60 firms held 27% of total corporate assets, rising to only 30% in the early 1990s. But by 2010 the largest 60 firms controlled 46% of all corporate assets.
  • There are 1.5 million registered corporations in Canada. The 60 largest firms account for roughly 60% of all corporate profit in Canada

Increasing Inequality

  • Over the past century there has been an extraordinarily high (.91) correlation between concentration of corporate power and  income inequality.
  • For example: Increased market power among large firms is closely associated with the national redistribution of income between capital and labour — owners at the expense of workers. There also appears to be a positive relationship between surging executive salaries and income inequality, on the one hand, and corporate concentration on the other.
  • The increase in foreign investment by the dominant corporations has meant that fewer corporate resources are employed for hiring Canadian workers.  
  • The emphasis on corporate flexibility has led to an increase in precarious employment, the weakening of unions and minimal wage gains.
  • Another reason for increasing inequality is that the restriction of competition leads to an increase in price, thus undermining the tendency towards equality.

Alternative Strategies

Jordan Brennan believes that an alternative set of state policies could change this set of outcomes. A trade and investment regime that actually promoted domestic investment and Canadian exports (like the Auto Pact) and that fostered inclusive, wage-led growth (which typically arises when the trade union movement is nurtured and strong) would alter the distribution of income, wealth and power.

Our Conclusions at Citizens against CETA

Dominant corporations will continue to show little interest in investing in the manufacturing sector in Canada as long as they can use mergers and buy-outs to dominate the market and reduce competition. This is being accomplished with the full blessing of the current federal government, who have deliberately made it easier for global corporations to takeover Canadian businesses by raising the threshold from $344 million to $1.5 billion9 before any foreign transaction is reviewed.

Our dominant Canadian corporations have become internationalists. They prefer to invest where they can get the greatest return and that’s not Canada. That’s bad news for Canadian productivity and is accelerating our over reliance on the export of base commodities rather than value added products. It’s, bad news for our young people who still believe that getting a good education will get them a good job. Finally, it’s bad news for government revenues given the rampant use of tax havens by dominant corporations.

Our dominant Canadian corporations control the major political parties and the political agenda. That’s evident in the enthusiastic, uncritical acceptance of trade agreements like CETA by the federal Conservatives, Liberals and NDP.

Our dominant Canadian corporations control the mainstream media. That allows them to control the message we receive, through repetitive clichés about future benefits that just never seem to arrive. This is particularly true in television and radio. Gone are the balanced debates about public policy we saw and heard in the past. One liners and quotes increasingly dominate. Were it not for the phone in talk shows and the Letters to the Editor that some newspapers still encourage, the public would suspect nothing about the dramatic negative impact that neoliberal globalization is going to have on our children and grandchildren.

Our dominant corporations increasingly control what gets talked about in our education systems – and what doesn’t get talked about. Courses that provide opportunities to discuss the huge economic, political and societal changes at the heart of globalization have disappeared from the high school curriculum in some provinces.

Our publicly funded universities have acquiesced, through their silence, to the uncritical promotion of TAIL by corporate think tanks. Does this disinclination on the part of the intellectual class to analyze the impact of the last 25 years of neoliberalism reflect the increasing corporate influence in our universities?

The Harper government’s is straitjacketing public policy criticism by NGOs through Revenue Canada’s new rules on what charitable organizations are allowed to talk about.

Who is left to speak out for the public good and democracy?