Tag Archives: TPP

100 days of (mostly cosmetic) Real Change™

Image description: Justin Trudeau stares intently into the camera, smiling slightly. In the top left is the Liberal Party logo. At the bottom, in white letters over a red background, it says: “I’m voting for real change”. The word “real”, unlike the other words, is in a hand-printed-esque font. (Image credit: Justin Trudeau/Twitter)

Though it’s hard to believe, it’s now been one hundred days since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office. The hundred-day mark has held symbolic significance ever since U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s first term in office, in which he made a big show out of accomplishing certain campaign promises in his first hundred days.

Since then, the milestone has become an inflection point for new administrations, after which they cease to be new and begin to be judged in earnest on what they have done rather than what they have promised to do. When looking back on the first few months of a new government, one is often able to clearly see the priorities, methods, and style which will come to characterize its entire term in office. (One hundred days is, after all, not a trivial length of time, amounting to around 7% of the government’s term.)

So what can we discern about the Justin Trudeau government, looking back at the events which have transpired since that sunny November day on which he and his cabinet were sworn in with much pomp and celebration? The answer necessarily varies by issue, but one general trend is abundantly clear: in its first hundred days, the Trudeau government has demonstrated a commitment to changing the tone and style of politics in Ottawa, but that change has, with only a few exceptions, not been matched by a corresponding shift in the substance of the government’s policies on most major issues.  Continue Reading

Open letter to Arif Virani, my Member of Parliament, on the TPP

Image description: A mock “Trojan Horse” with the letters “T.P.P.” written on it is at the centre of a protest scene. Many people are standing around holding signs referring to the TPP, trade, and Fast Track. (Image credit: AFGE/Flickr)

Readers: I’ve finally done something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while – I wrote a letter to my Member of Parliament, Arif Virani, about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. which I’ve reprinted in full below. (I also CC’d this letter to Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland and to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.)

Now is the time to be vocal about this atrocious deal. I’d like to urge everybody who reads this to get in touch with their MP about this issue. Unfortunately, the TPP’s approval ultimately comes down to a vote in the House of Commons, so this is one of the most direct ways you can make your opposition to the TPP clear. If you’d like, you can feel free to copy directly from my letter to Mr Virani.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I feel there’s a much more radical critique to be made of the TPP, but I’m also a big believer in speaking to your audience, and I think that people across the political spectrum have good reasons to oppose this dreadful deal, so in my letter I tried to speak primarily to the concerns that many moderates have expressed.

If you’re uncertain who your Member of Parliament is or how to contact them, you can find that information here.)

Continue Reading

The Liberals’ attitude toward the TPP is actually not completely discouraging

Image description: a massively muscled cartoon of the Incredible Hulk, with the captions "Stop TPP" and "NAFTA on Steroids" (Image credit: Phil Ebersole)

Image description: a massively muscled (like, more than usual) cartoon of the Incredible Hulk, with the captions “Stop TPP” and “NAFTA on Steroids” (Image credit: Phil Ebersole)

As you may have heard by now, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland announced today that Canada will be signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership at a formal signing ceremony in Auckland, New Zealand, in early February.

Freeland hastened to add that signing the deal and ratifying it are two different things entirely, and that on the subject of ratification, the Liberals are still far from making up their minds. In all of her rhetoric, she leans ever-so-slightly in favour of ratifying the deal (“Just as it is too soon to endorse the TPP, it is also too soon to close the door…It is clear that many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities, while others have concerns…”), but is careful to always include the contrary viewpoint as a hedge. Her careful phrasing is a massive departure from the pro-anything-trade-related effusion which typified Stephen Harper and his lapdog cabinet (there’s that famous difference in tone yet again).

Some observers are skeptical of this prevarication and feel certain that, after the whole elaborate public-consultation listening tour show is over, the beholden-to-Bay-Street Liberals will use their substantial majority in the House of Commons to push the deal through.

Initially, I have to confess, that was my suspicion. However, the Libs seem more wobbly on this with each passing month. Back in November, I pointed to incoming Agriculture Minister and Liberal good ol’ boy Lawrence MacAulay’s declaration of support for the TPP as a major indicator of which way the party was leaning. However, parsing Freeland’s carefully equivocal statements over the past several weeks has led me to conclude that she’s either got an extremely strong poker face or she is legitimately uncommitted to passing this deal. Continue Reading

TPP: Canadian government as corporate cheerleader in trade lawsuits

CW – meat & the meat industry.

On December 18, 2015, the day that the U.S.’s country-of-origin labelling (COOL) laws were struck down, a pair of high-profile Trudeau cabinet ministers celebrated.

“This is a real vindication of the power and significance of the WTO dispute-resolution mechanism, which has secured a real win for Canada,” said International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, while Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay proclaimed his intention to ensure that the law stayed dead: “We will be monitoring the situation to make sure there are no problems in this area.”

Freeland and MacAulay weren’t alone in celebrating COOL’s demise; The Western Producer, an agricultural-industry trade publication, crowed that “Canadian cattle and hog producers are getting their Christmas gifts early this year,” and added some effusive quotations from industry spokespeople:

“After all these years, it’s wonderful news,” said Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Dave Solverson about repeal of labelling legislation that the CCA and others have fought since 2008.

Solverson noted the support of the federal government, past and present, in pressing the issue through the World Trade Organization. The WTO ruled in Canada’s favour four times, supporting the contention that COOL violated international trade rules. [my bold]

What was COOL, you ask? Well, it was nothing more than this: a law (and a popular one at that) which mandated that meat be sold with a label indicating what country it was grown and slaughtered in.

If that sounds like a totally reasonable regulation, you’re not alone. Pretty much the only folks who didn’t like this law were meat-producers, slaughterhouses, and meatpackers in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, and of course their loyal lackeys in government.

(If you’re also sick of the federal government constantly fighting on behalf of meat producers, you’ve got a friend in this grumpy vegan, but that’s another post for another day.) Continue Reading

As 2015 comes to a close, these major ongoing issues aren’t going anywhere

This awkward week jammed in between Christmas and New Year’s is when some of the year’s most half-assed journalism gets cranked out, in the form of phoned-in Year in Review pieces, or worse, Top Ten Blanks of 201x listicles.

I don’t have a problem with retrospectives. It’s just that the last week of December is only ever the actual turning point in current events by pure chance or accident. More often than not, major stories are still developing, trends are still unfolding, and it’s too soon to pass judgement on what the legacy of recent events will actually be.

So in my final post of 2015, I’m going to eschew the lazy conventions of the genre by highlighting a few stories which are very much ongoing affairs as the year comes to a close. Continue Reading

“Political realities”, protest, and the preemptive deflation of expectations at COP21

As Prime Minister Justin “We don’t need emission targets” Trudeau heads to Paris for the COP21 climate summit, his Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is already trying to negotiate down expectations for the final outcome of what has been billed as humanity’s last chance at averting catastrophic global warming.

If you’ll recall, there was a lot of fanfare when it was announced that “climate change” was going to be tacked on to the Environment Minister’s title, but I pointed out at the time that this was pure spin – the Liberals campaigned actively on being a more effective champion for the oil/gas/pipeline industry than the outgoing Conservatives had ever been, and that substantive commitment far outweighed any superficial change in tone.

Now, I hate to be right about this, but I’ve gotta say, I was right…

Canada on Friday backed the U.S. approach to major climate change talks in Paris, saying any carbon reduction targets agreed to at the negotiations should not be legally binding.

The announcement by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna could irritate host nation France, which wants any deal to be enforceable. That would be politically impossible for the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, however, since it is clear the Republican-dominated Congress would not ratify any treaty imposing legally binding cuts on the United States.

“Everyone wants to see the United States be part of this treaty,” McKenna told reporters on a conference call before flying to Paris. “There are political realities in the United States … they cannot have legally binding targets. We don’t expect that the targets will be internationally legally binding,” she said.

In other words, it’s unfortunate that oil-funded Republican corporate shills in the U.S. Senate essentially hold veto power over a comprehensive, legally-binding climate change agreement that will preserve a livable future for our planet, but what can we do? That’s the “political reality”, after all…hell, even Thompson Reuters agrees, in an objective neutral journalistic tone, that it would be “politically impossible” to push a legally binding agreement through the U.S. Congress. Continue Reading

TPP update – Liberal support looking more certain, despite dire warnings

For months now, I’ve been writing about the Trans-Pacific Partnership without knowing precisely what of provisions were contained within it.

Negotiated under intense secrecy, the TPP has for a long time been like an ominous raincloud on the horizon, looming and threatening in an indistinct and distant way. Occasionally a draft chapter would make its way into the hands of Wikileaks, and experts in the field would carefully parse through the dense legal language and pronounce the agreement dangerous and a threat to (sovereignty/democracy/the environment/ labour/creativity/etc.), but for all intents and purposes the TPP was a black box.

That in itself was reason to be suspicious. The high-level access to negotiations which was granted to over five hundred of the world’s largest corporations, and the complete and total lack of access granted to pretty much every other affected group, was a pretty strong tell as to whom this deal was going to favour.

As you’ve likely heard, the full text of the deal was finally made public last week. And now that we can actually read the damn thing, all the experts who thought they were alarmed before are having to redefine their definition of “alarmed” to accommodate their new levels of alarmedness.

Chris Hedges, for instance, says of the deal that it is “the most brazen corporate power grab in American history”, adding:

These three agreements [the TPP, TTIP, and TISA] solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

And before you go and call Hedges an alarmist, consider these facts: Continue Reading

Bursting the Trudeaumania bubble

Look, I don’t wanna be a party-pooper. I don’t wanna piss on anyone’s parade. It’s really wonderful to see so many people being so enthusiastic about federal politics, so inspired by the notion of real meaningful change, and I wish that I could join in on the enthusiasm and excitement.

But I can’t, because as earnestly felt as the swell of goodwill towards the new Trudeau government is, it’s misplaced.

Now first of all, to be clear: it’s obviously fantastic that Trudeau appointed the most ethnically diverse cabinet in Canadian history, as well as the first to feature an equal number of female and male ministers. And I don’t have any patience for those crypto-racist/patriarchal arguments about how cabinet positions ought to be doled out on the basis of merit and not arbitrary quotas. “Merit” is such a fuzzy term, easily defined to mean just about whatever the user wants it to mean, and in a white-cis-hetero-patriarchal-colonizer society, merit has traditionally been almost exclusively an attribute of white cis heterosexual men. (Surprise, surprise.) There’s definitely a place for quotas in an inherently unequal society, because a lot of people who are entirely capable of doing big and important jobs aren’t ever able to try because of systemic oppression.

In fact, good on Justin Trudeau for setting a strong precedent by appointing a gender-balanced cabinet. It will now be incredibly difficult, politically speaking, for any of his successors to go back to male-dominated cabinets of the past.

But representation by members of diverse communities does not inherently mean that the concerns of those communities will be addressed. A lot has been made about the appointment of rookie MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, an Indigenous lawyer and regional chief, as Minister of Justice. And don’t get me wrong – it’s awesome than an Indigenous woman is in a position to do so much to address the injustices that have been heaped upon Indigenous communities by Canadian governments since before this nation was founded, and I sincerely hope that she is able to do just that.

Issues like the ridiculously disproportionate incarceration rate for Indigenous folks, the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the establishment of meaningful nation-to-nation relations using the treaties as a framework, and of course a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, would fall at least partially under Wilson-Raybould’s purview.

All of which is very exciting – but I can’t help feeling cynical. I’ve seen this movie before – a member of a marginalized and oppressed community achieves a position of power in which they can make some meaningful change, and then…they don’t.

The most direct parallel I can think of is Eric Holder, the first black Attorney-General of the United States. Continue Reading

Surprise! The TPP is gonna screw us over!

From the CBC:

At the initial briefing offered to journalists, TPP negotiators said Canadian health and safety regulations would apply.

“The TPP fully protects Canada’s right to maintain and implement measures to ensure food safety for consumers, as well as to protect animal or plant life or health,” a trade department spokesman wrote CBC News.

But further clarification recently revealed that doesn’t mean dairy producers outside Canada have to follow the same rules Canadian farms do.

Most notably, it’s illegal in Canada to administer bovine growth hormone (rBST) to boost milk production in dairy cattle. But there’s no such restriction in the U.S.

No new certification or inspection regime appears set to screen milk destined for import into Canada. It’s also unclear whether U.S. milk would be segregated at Canadian processing facilities, or simply mixed with Canadian product.

Aside from being yet another compelling reason to go vegan, this latest revelation clearly demonstrates the power of the TPP and similar “trade” agreements to undercut the power of the Canadian government to regulate products on the market based on legitimate safety concerns.

Want more? Check this one out: Continue Reading

Why did the NDP lose so badly? Here’s a close look at some popular explanations

There really isn’t a good way to spin it. The NDP lost hard on Monday night.

When the election started in early August, they were leading in the polls and poised to form government for the first time in their long history. Eleven weeks later, their support had cratered; rather than building on their 2011 outing, their most successful ever, they instead lost more than half their caucus, including many of their most experienced and well-known members.

Instead of moving from Stornaway to 24 Sussex, Thomas Mulcair is now house-hunting at considerably less prestigious addresses, no doubt grateful to even still have his job after a relatively close race in his riding of Outremont.

That’s the kind of meagre consolation NDP stalwarts are offering each other these days. It could have been worse – at least Mulcair didn’t go full Ignatieff and lose his own seat!

There has been the digital equivalent of a ton of ink devoted to the question of What Happened To The NDP, and I wanted to take a close look at a few of the more popular explanations today. As we’ll see, most are at best incomplete and at worst completely unfounded.

The most easily discredited of these theories was quite prominent in the final month or so of the campaign: the notion that the NDP lost because their stance on the niqab was at odds with the majority of the electorate, especially in Quebec.

This one is transparently false. First of all, a close reading of the data shows that the party’s numbers were slipping several days before the issue shot to prominence in the first of the two French-language debates.  Continue Reading

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