In a sense, Canadian Prime Minister Harper is acting like the CEO of Corporate Canada - in a state of downsizing (cutting budgets and the public sector), selling off assets (natural resources), and putting profits over people (China-Canada trade agreement). But Canada is indeed a country, one where our federal government has a duty to protect our land, waters and people.
Fortunately Canadians also have a much greater say than shareholders in a company. Last week a Forum poll was released that saw support for the Conservatives drop 16 points, to only 27 per cent in British Columbia. When you cut environmental assessments, fisheries acts, waterway protection acts and most of the staff that work for them, plus cheerlead the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and quietly table the China-Canada Foreign Investment Protection Act (FIPA), the poll results should come as no surprise.
What’s also reassuring is the massive outcry and support asking for public debate and scrutiny of the investor protection agreement with China. The agreement would allow Chinese corporations to sue Canadian governments for interfering with their right to profit from our country’s natural resources. The sweeping deal could undermine Canadian sovereignty.
In our mobilization efforts to oppose the FIPA, ForestEthics Advocacy saw almost 46,000 comments sent to the members of the International Trade Committee close to 15,000 signatures on our Open Letter to Harper, and more than $15,000 in gifts to support our work on the issue. LeadNow and Green Party MP Elizabeth May also received tremendous responses to their awareness campaigns and actions demanding democratic process on such a binding, long-term profit protection agreement.
It’s due to this outcry that the deadline for being able to ratify the China/Canada FIPA on November 2nd came and went (with a collective sigh of relief). While Harper and his cabinet can legally ratify the agreement now, politically it’s another story – and one where we need to keep them on the hook.
While Harper and International Trade Minister Ed Fast tour around India in Canadian shipped armoured limos this week, they’re not only trying to peddle our uranium and bring investor confidence through a speech at the uber elite World Economic Form (being hosted in New Delhi). They’re also trying to negotiate another FIPA (Foreign Investment Protection Agreement) with this other dominant Asian market.
But why is our Conservative government so determined to give up so much and expose Canadians to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to foreign investors through secret arbitration? There are other ways to conduct business. China hasn’t shunned investing in Australia who has decided not to negotiate these bilateral deals that take away some of their sovereignty. After being sued by Philip Morris for their anti-tobacco legislation under a similar investment treaty, the country has moved away from agreements like the China-Canada FIPA. They’ve encouraged companies to take out insurance, having them protect themselves instead of governments protecting foreign corporate profits.
Instead of governing Canada like a corporation, we need leadership that protects our land, water and people. If the Conservatives want to re-elect a majority in 2015 with support from Beautiful British Columbia, they should either honour their constitutional duties…or perhaps take out their own insurance policy.