Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Harper's Free Trade is Managed Trade and All Wrong For Canada

Part two of The Nation's Deathbed talks about the arbitrary nature of the deals that Harper has struck for Canada, without taking these important decisions to the people. Free trade is not free trade, just managed trade, and Canada's natural resources are being bartered on the open market.

The SPP agreement now mentions our water as a 'good' and all 'goods' are part of the NAFTA deal. So even if we need our water, we don't get first dibs, and if we run low, we have to purchase it from someplace else, while our own is being sent to Mexico or the US.

During the Listeriosis outbreak, then Health Minister, Tony Clement was criticized for being away. And where was Tony Clement? In Denver, where he chaired a closed-door discussion on energy security with American oil and gas company executives.

And what was he discussing with these oil and gas companies? NAFTAs proportionality clause, which is exactly how the selling off of our natural resources works?

According to the Parkland Institute:

This obscure-sounding clause essentially states that, when it comes to energy, no Canadian government can take any action which would reduce the proportion of our total energy supply which we make available to the United States from the average proportion over the last 36 months.

In other words, if over the last 36 months we have exported just under 50 per cent of our available oil (including domestic production and imports) to the United States—and we have—then no government in Canada can do anything which would result in us making less than two thirds of our total oil supply available to the US.

The ultimate finding of the report is that this clause seriously jeopardizes our own energy security in this country, and severely hampers our government’s ability to set our own energy policies. In other words, because we have signed on to the proportionality clause, we are now legally bound to prioritize the energy needs of the United States over our own.

For example, if a natural disaster were to hit eastern Canada tomorrow, our government could not say that we will cut oil or gas exports to the US by 10 per cent in order to increase the oil and gas available for disaster relief in Canada. Under NAFTA, the U.S. would be able to invoke the proportionality clause under these circumstances, and our government would essentially be forced to continue exporting at the same level as before.

This clause has a direct impact on Canadians, yet there was absolutely no discussion with us, as to whether or not we wanted to essentially give away our natural resources. All of this was done behind closed doors, with no input from the Canadian people.

Something else discussed in this portion of the documentary was labour and migrant workers.

Most Canadians are probably not aware of what Jason Kenney and Peter Van Loan have been up to. In order to maximize corporate profits, there will be sweeping changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This will put all the power in the hands of the bosses.

Under a smokescreen of protection for workers, the regulatory changes would limit migrant workers' time in Canada to four years and bar them from re-entering Canada for the next six years. Workers could be denied entry at the border if an immigration officer decides their job offer is not genuine.

These changes do not strengthen protection for migrant workers. These changes only make workers even more vulnerable and reinforce the government's efforts to build a disposable workforce through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The government states it is responding to extensive consultations. However, our organizations and countless workers have told Immigration Minister Jason Kenney that, to address systemic violations of workers rights in the TFWP, fundamental changes are needed, including ensuring migrant workers have permanent status.

Imposing limits on workers' time in Canada makes workers status even more precarious and is an unjust and arbitrary provision.

Giving immigration officers arbitrary powers in denying workers admission to Canada penalizes migrant workers rather than targeting recruiters and employers who should be held accountable for the exploitation that workers face.

The government proposes that abusive employers be banned from hiring workers for 2 years and their names be made public. However, these changes do nothing to address the reality that migrant workers who are tied to one employer and who are denied full immigration status often cannot speak out against the widespread violations in the TFWP without risking deportation.

This policy change is part of an ongoing trend of exclusion within the Canadian immigration system where the government has created more temporary programs and less access to citizenship rights. Today, people from only 38 professions are able to immigrate to Canada under the Federal Skilled Worker points system. Refugee acceptance rates have declined sharply and there is talk of further dismantling the system. Deportations have increased 50%.

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