After reading the letter-to-the-editor from Robert Sopuck, (Conservative MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette) in The Roblin Review back in January (Canada-Eu agreement will bring jobs to the riding) (*see below), one would think there are no "downsides" to free trade, at all!
How convenient that he and Prime Minister Harper are leaving out the parts that aren't as flattering. Free trade agreements have, for years, been chipping away at the ability of sovereign nations to make laws that protect our health and environment. Far from protecting us, such deals hand over more and more power to giant, ruthless and unelected corporations to sue nations like Canada, if our laws interfere with their own "rights" to make a profit.
As long ago as the 1990s, an American outfit called Ethyl Corp. made off with $19 million of Canadian taxpayers' money under provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Ethyl Corp. sued Canada because we had the nerve to ban its fuel additive due to health concerns.
But that's chickenfeed, nowadays.
As we speak, the US-based pharmaceutical giant, Ely Lilly and Co. is also trying to sue Canada under NAFTA for $500 million! Why? Because, a few years ago, Canadian courts cancelled its patents on two of its drugs. Those rulings took away Lilly's monopoly and allowed another company to also make the drugs in a cheaper, generic form.
But that's not all.
The Texas-based oil company, Lone Pine Resources is also suing us under NAFTA for $250 million. Why? Because it wants to "frack"under the St. Lawrence River and Quebec won't let it, at least until new regulations are put in place. Fracking involves drilling into underground shale deposits and injecting a secret witches brew of chemicals to force out the oil or gas. For some time now, it's been making people sick in many places and polluting drinking water to the point where some believe it actually renders it flammable! It has also been known to trigger earthquakes! It's now happening all over the world, including Manitoba.
Do you remember voting for any of this nonsense? Did we sleep through that referendum? I don't think so, because there wasn't one!
Corporate power at its ugliest.
But free trade treaties can inflict their harm elsewhere, as well as here at home. In a macabre twist to this already sordid tale, a Canadian company, Infinito Gold, based in Calgary, is suing Costa Rica for $100 million in lost profits under a trade deal between our two countries. Costa Rica is a small and breathtakingly beautiful little nation in Central America. (I know because I've been there.) It counts heavily on tourism dollars, so recognizes the importance of protecting its natural heritage. It's being sued because it won't let Infinito dig an open pit, cyanide-leach mine in the middle of its most pristine rain-forest. Observers believe this bully-boy corporation will actually win its case!
A Canadian expert in international law, Howard Mann, has studied documents which have leaked out about CETA (the agreement Mr. Sopuck brags about in his letter). The leaked ones are the only kind available, since this government refuses to release an official draft which might actually provide Canadians with some clarity.
Mr. Mann, who has credentials as long as my arm, has issued a sombre warning. The kind of skulduggery I have outlined here, will increase dramatically once CETA becomes law.
Somehow, somewhere, the voters of this nation need to find politicians who care more about us, and less about rich, corporate investors.