(Monday night update below)
On Thursday, the US Dept. of Defense issued a presser
from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates praising Colombia as an "exporter of security" and "a model for the region" in its "crackdown against a leftist insurgency".
Touting the U.S.-Colombian Defense Cooperation Agreement under which the US operates seven of Colombia's military bases, Gates called for a renewal of efforts to pass a US-Colombia free trade agreement, "noting that he talked with National Security Advisor James L. Jones Jr. before his trip here about renewing that effort".
Because, as I posted over at The Galloping Beaver
on Thursday night, any discussion of a free
investment agreement naturally originates with the Defense Dept and the National Security Advisor, so we can take Gates' call for renewed strategic meddling in South America as Canada's midwifing marching orders.
And voilà ... right on schedule ...
On Friday afternoon, as not noted in any of our national media
, Con House Leader Jay Hill moved to curtail any further debate of Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia FTA,
before it passes second reading and goes back to committee where a combined LibCon effort will likely pass it .
Lib Ralph Goodale noted the motion was "a bit of a surprise on a Friday afternoon" - indeed it was not mentioned in the daily Order Papers - and Lib Dennis Lee fretted about process, but other than that, no Liberals spoke against it, leaving the Bloc and NDP to point out for the umpteenth time what a completely crap bill it is. Unsurprisingly, Hill's motion passed
and Peter Van Loan advised the last day for debate on C-2 will be today
In Sept 2009 Scott Brison said in the House :
"If we isolate Colombia in the Andean region and leave Colombia exposed and vulnerable to the ideological attacks of Chavez's Venezuela, we will be allowing evil to flourish."
Last month in an effort to stave off criticism for supporting a free
investment agreement with the country with the worst human rights record in the hemisphere, Brison brokered a deal with Colombian President Uribe
at Davos wherein Canada and Colombia will each conduct their own annual human rights assessments,
handily circumventing the recommendation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade that an independent human rights impact assessment must be done before
the agreement is considered.
Yes, their own human rights assessments; their own environmental assessments too.
I don't have a *lol* loud enough for the concept of Uribe and Co. being forced to do their own assessments - something Uribe does yearly already - but the Cons lapped it up, the Libs are happy to have been provided with a fig leaf, and the media are congratulating them both for "making parliament work".
"Making parliament work" apparently means the Cons killing debate on a crap bill after they get a sufficient number of the Libs onside.
Write those Libs before today's vote !
Dear Honourable Members
In February 2008 Colombian MP Daniel García-Peña appeared before you to explain that the agreement as written would be "very negative for Canada and Colombia."
Monday night update
"Canadian companies would be attracted to Colombia for all the wrong reasons, namely to take advantage of the country's weak labour, human rights and environmental laws.
Many companies will come to bypass the laws Canada has and take advantage of Colombian standards, which are much lower. In many ways [this could] promote the exploitation of workers."
Furthermore, Mr. García-Peña said, a trade deal could destroy the livelihoods of many small Colombian farmers by flooding the market with subsidized agricultural imports.
"The small peasant farmer would be unable to compete with the cheap imports of food," he said. "[This] would wipe them out."
Those who would benefit are the large agro-businesses in Colombia that would buy up the land of destitute farmers for the production of biodiesel, palm oil and beef for export.
Worst of all, Mr. García-Peña added, these large agro-businesses have ties to the paramilitary squads at the heart of the ongoing rights abuses and violence in the South American country.
According to the Washington Post, the millions of dollars in US aid funnelled into Colombia go to the wealthy landowners to grow oil-producing palm groves : "four families received most of the $10 million provided in 2007 and 2008".
45 trade union leaders were killed last year in addition to thousands of indigenous people pushed off their land for mining interests.
And for what?
According to Glen Hodgson, VP and chief economist of the Conference Board of Canada :
"Our annual trade with Colombia is about the same level as that with South Dakota and is actually smaller than that with Delaware or Rhode Island. Compared to other markets much closer, Colombia is not really a major player. 80% of Colombia’s imports to Canada are actually duty free already."
I urge you to vote against the investors rights bill C-2 today.
. Canada-Colombia FTA passes 183 to 78
37 Libs voted with the Cons in favour; Bloc and NDP against.
Turns out the media pundits were right about Libs and Cons working happily together to secure agribiz dumping and investment rights for Canadian companies to exploit Colombia.
In the House today, Liberals Bob Rae, Scott Simms, Scott Brison, Martha Hall Findlay, Paul Szabo, Justin Trudeau, and Robert Oliphant joined the Cons in praising Uribe's remarkable progress in reducing poverty by 1%
per year while simultaneusly increasing the gap between rich and poor.
"We'll be helping!" said the lovely Hall Findlay. "Windows, not walls!"
No Libs voted against the bill, although some abstained. However the debate did gave Lib Scott Brison the opportunity to bring up Hugo Chavez a few more times so that he and Con MP Ed Fast, the Chair of the Justice and Human Rights Committee, could grill NDP's Olivia Chow on why she had never publicly denounced Chavez. I think I liked Brison better when he was a Con.
The bill now heads off to committee for rubberstamping by the 7 out of 12 committee members who already voted in favour of it today.
Walk of Shame - Liberals who voted with the Cons on C-2, the Canada Colombia FTA
: Ignatieff, Dion, Rae, Bagnell, Brison, Bagnell, Belanger, Crombie, Cuzner, Dryden, Kirsty Duncan, Easter, Eyking, Fry, Garneau, Goodale, Holland, Hall Findlay, LeBlanc, MacAuley, McCallum, McGuinty, John McKay, Mendes, Shawn Murphy, Murray, Oliphant, Proulx, Ratansi, Regan, Rota, Russell, and Trudeau.