Sunday, November 29, 2009

NAFTA and the Selling of Canada. We Got a Raw Deal

The above is Part V of Mel Hurtig's documentary on YouTube; Who Killed Canada.

In part one he gives an introduction to the infrastructure of the extreme right-wing movement; beginning with the hi-jacking of our media, to the many so-called think-tanks, that provide the 'facts' to that hi-jacked media.

In part two he discusses the reduction in federal revenue that weakened spending in important areas. We learned that we are 25th of the 30 OECD countries, in terms of spending on social programs.

Part three deals with our increasing poverty, that coincides with the increase in corporate profits. And though these 'free market' gurus try to convince us that we should throw in our lot with corporate Canada, they have done nothing to advance Canadian interests or protect this country's citizens.

Part four discussed the fact that although neo-cons would like us to believe that we are overtaxed, Canada is actually 21st of 30 nations in terms of the amount of taxes we pay. It also discusses the fact that our history has been rewritten to erase the important role the First Nations played.

Part five deals with NAFTA and what a horrible thing this was and is for Canada. We are basically under the control of the United States. We got very little from the deal, and in fact 11,043 Canadian companies have now become foreign controlled.

The SPP made matters worse, since it has called for even deeper integration with the US. We can no longer refuse to join the Americans in combat, as we did with Iraq, but must now go where they tell us to go; and don't think our soldiers won't be given the most dangerous assignments.

Mr. Hurtig discusses how hard Liberal leader John Turner fought against NAFTA, calling the deal the 'Sale of Canada'. We now see he was right. From the New York Times:

John N. Turner; Canada's Liberals Battle the Trade Pact
New York Times
August 7, 1988

CANADA'S opposition Liberal Party announced last month that its majority in the upper house of Parliament would block the legislation necessary to implement a free-trade agreement that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a Progressive Conservative, had negotiated with the United States.

In a countermove to try to salvage his treaty, Mr. Mulroney is considered virtually certain to call an early election, possibly for October, and the treaty is likely to be the dominant issue in the campaign.

The trade bill would eliminate all tariffs over a 10-year period and lower barriers to investment and other curbs on trade in agriculture, energy and services. Legislation is moving through the United States Congress, which is expected to pass it before it adjourns for the November elections.

One of the loudest critics of the free-trade agreement is John N. Turner, the Liberal Party leader who served as Prime Minister in 1984 when he succeeded Pierre Elliott Trudeau as head of the party and then lost an election to Mr. Mulroney's Conservatives less than three months later. Mr. Turner explained why he is against the agreement in an interview last week with John F. Burns, The New York Times's correspondent in Toronto. Here are excerpts.

Question. You have said that if your party is elected and you once again become Prime Minister, you will ''rip up'' the trade agreement with the United States. Why?

Answer. I've said to the Prime Minister that unless there is a general election there will be no trade bill. In other words, we will not allow it to be finalized and implemented until the Canadian people have had an opportunity to decide. On an issue of this importance and magnitude it's important to be up front with the Americans, saying, ''You understand democracy, this is a fundamental change of direction politically and economically for Canada . . . and we believe the Canadian people ought to have an opportunity to review it.'' Concessions and Controls

Q. What is there about this agreement that you find so threatening to Canada's sovereignty?

A. Well, it's more than a trade agreement, it's the Sale of Canada Act. . . . We have lowered barriers on the Canadian-American border so that 80 percent of the dollar value of the goods moving across that border go free of duty, free of tariff. So what we were really talking about was the remaining 20 percent. And for that remaining 20 percent, Mr. Mulroney gave away the store. Had this been just a question of lowering tariff barriers, trade barriers, we would have little quarrel.

But we conceded our energy, and have become part of a continental energy reservoir with the United States. We have conceded our ability to control investment in Canadian business. We have conceded control over our capital markets. We have weakened our ability to market in an orderly fashion our agriculture.

By allowing ourselves to be caught in a five- to seven-year negotiation for a definition of subsidies, under the thrust of what the agreement calls ''market forces'' or ''harmonization,'' we have put in potential jeopardy our cultural programs and our social programs and our ability to assist our less developed regions.

And the sole purpose of a bilateral, as opposed to a multilateral or international trade negotiation, was to somehow gain secure access to the American market, as opposed to access that could be unilaterally impeded by trade remedy laws and countervailing and anti-dumping actions. To get secure access would mean a specific exemption from those laws, and we did not get it.

Q. By 1986, 77.8 percent of Canada's exports went to the United States, with a total value of $93.8 billion. With this kind of dependence on the American market, does Canada have a viable alternative to the economic integration with the United States that the free-trade agreement seems to foreshadow?

A. I believe we do. And I believe that when we form a government we will continue to attempt to enhance our possibilities in the American market. . . . But the word integration is one that implies to me the gradual surrendering of sovereignty.

Canada has never needed that type of integration. Integration implies coordination of fiscal and monetary policy, and increasing constraints on our ability to take decisions that might affect what the Americans call the ''level playing field.'' Blacks, Whites and Grays

Q. Proponents of the trade agreement tend to stress all the things that Canada and the United States have in common. Among opponents, it is the differences that are emphasized. How do you see these differences?

A. Historically, we were not born of revolution, we didn't have that spectacular beginning. . . . And I think that was reflected in the Declaration of Independence, which speaks of ''life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'' In the Canadian Constitution, the phrase is ''peace, order and good government.'' It reflects quite a difference psychologically and historically.

And let's go on. America is a black and white country. And I don't mean racially, but in attitudes. You know the sort of thing: ''My country right or wrong,'' ''You're either with us or against us,'' ''I want to know where you stand.''

We are a grayer country. We are instinctively a consensus people. And we have a less highly centralized government. . . . We have appreciated the virtues of a mixed economy - crown corporations, a national railway, a national airline. Put all these factors into the mix and we are different. . . .

Q. You've said that anti-Americanism won't sell in Canada. But isn't there a danger, when you speak of the ''Sale of Canada Act'' and of Canada's becoming the ''51st state,'' that the Liberal Party will become identified with anti-American attitudes?

A. I would hope that the rhetoric of an election campaign will not be interpreted on our side as being anti-American. There will obviously be a strong pro-Canadian flavor, there may be even what might be interpreted as a Canada-first flavor, but it will not be hostile to the United States. And there may be words said in the course of an election campaign that are open to misinterpretation. I hope not. But the United States is now entering an election campaign, and I imagine that the vocabulary and rhetoric used there will be very tough, too. But that's the democratic system. . . .

Q. If you succeed in killing the agreement, how would you manage the fallout in Washington?

A. If I am successful in persuading Canadians that it's not just a matter of a trade agreement, it's a matter of political and economic and cultural independence, of our uniqueness as a nation, and of our way of life, I feel that that will be accepted by Americans. If there's an election first, and the agreement is rejected, it will have been by the democratic process. In American corporate terms, we're taking this one to the shareholders. Americans understand that.

The Council of Canadians would like us to tear up NAFTA and seek a new deal for the betterment of Canadians. We won't see that under Harper. In fact he is hoping to give them anything we may have left.

Tell your MP that Canada needs a better trade policy

Governments and big business have spent the last 15 years telling us that free trade is good for us. But Canadians know better. Despite promises that free trade deals would make Canadian companies more competitive, Canada has consistently lagged behind the United States in both productivity and competitiveness since the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1989 and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1995. The new jobs created in the free trade era have been largely part-time and poorly paid. Social inequality in our country has grown as a direct result of workers’ inability to earn a decent wage to support their families.

In the aftermath of the softwood lumber decision, even former supporters of free trade are arguing that NAFTA isn’t working for Canada. Some have called for forceful retaliation against the U.S., while others have suggested that we should get out of NAFTA – before it’s too late. The Council of Canadians believes that Canada needs a new trade policy – one that favours democracy, public services and the environment, over the “rights” of corporations to make a profit.


NAFTA undermines democracy. Foreign corporations use Chapter 11 to challenge environmental laws, municipal land-use controls, water protection measures, the activities of Canada Post, and even the decisions of judges and juries. While no Canadian citizen or corporation could bring forward these challenges, NAFTA grants corporations of member countries the right to challenge any federal rule or law that they perceive as a barrier to their ability to make a profit. The result is millions of tax dollars being spent to either fight or settle with these corporations.

NAFTA threatens health care and other public services. The exemption for health care under NAFTA, which has largely kept U.S. for-profit health corporations out of Canada, applies only to a fully publicly funded system. Once privatized, the system must give “national treatment” rights to American private hospital chains. The NAFTA exemption only applies to medicare as it stood in 1989, and doesn’t provide protection for a possible expansion of medicare into new areas like homecare and pharmacare.

NAFTA strips Canada of control over our energy resources. Canada now produces about 40 per cent more oil than it consumes, but has to rely heavily on imported oil from offshore. Thanks to NAFTA, Canada now exports 70 percent of the oil and 61 per cent of the natural gas we produce each year to the United States. NAFTA prevents us from selling our energy resources to Canadians at rates lower than we sell them in the U.S. And because of NAFTA’s proportional sharing clause, we can’t ever cut back on the amount of energy we produce and sell to the United States, even in times when our country runs short.

NAFTA could put our water up for sale. Canadian water is defined as a “service” and an “investment” under NAFTA. The agreement’s so-called water exemption is inadequate. After British Columbia banned bulk exports of lake and river water, the California-based Sun Belt Corporation launched a Chapter 11 challenge, seeking $10 billion in damages. The case is still outstanding, and has profound implications for the future of Canada’s water.

Current trade policies serve as a platform for deeper integration with the U.S. Our business and political elites are pushing for deeper ties with the U.S., and would see Canada privatize health care, join common security projects, give up sovereignty over our natural resources and harmonize our food and health policies with lower U.S. standards.

NAFTA is a bad deal for Canada, working families, our environment and our sovereignty. We want a trade policy that protects our democracy, social services, natural resources and way of life.

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