Friday, April 29, 2016

The Travelling TPP Roadshow

Brian Innes, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) and tireless retweeter of all things canola, suggests canola growers have a TPP friend in Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland because her dad is a canola grower. 
In a 2012 column in The Atlantic, she mentioned her dad's canola and wheat farm is "seven times the size of Central Park".

In his column in the Hill Times a couple of days ago :
Innes notes the HoC Standing Committee on International Trade kicked off its cross-Canada pre-study public consultations with Canadians in Vancouver on April 18. 

Yes, it's a "full and open pre-study on the merits of TPP" after Canada signed TPP.  
Both Freeland and committee roadshow vice chair and Con MP Randy "Why the TPP is in Canada's best interest" Hoback have explained the TPP cannot be renegotiated - Canada's price of entry to the deal was foregoing the right to either veto or reopen any chapter that had already been concluded. 

So how's that TPP roadshow going?

I went. I saw. I cried for what counts as ‘public consultation’.

Only twelve witnesses were allowed to speak. They were allotted five minutes each. Five of the 12 witnesses represented industry associations and interests. There was only room for 60 members of the public.

By contrast, the Lobbying Commissioner of Canada records Innes' outfit CAFTA held 72 lobbying consultations with Freeland and other Liberal and Conservative MPs leading up to the TPP signing. Or as CAFTA tweeted as Freeland signed it : 
"CAFTA has been engaged throughout #TPP negotiations and had a voice at the table."

As can be seen at left : literally at the table on Feb 3 in Aukland.

Meanwhile yesterday south of the border, origin country of what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz called "the worst trade deal ever":

160+ Farm and Food Groups Ask Congress to Reject TPP, Stand Up for Independent Farmers and Ranchers 
The controversial trade deal will mostly benefit corporate interests.
"The companies — not farmers — capture any export benefits. These companies can use the trade deal to offshore their supply chains and ship farm and food products back to the United States, where the imports compete with products from American farmers."
They are already doing that of course but would like their politicians to agree on some accompanying trade table manners for it. 

President Obama in the NYTimes yesterday
“It’s one of the reasons that I pursued the Trans-Pacific Partnership, not because I’m not aware of all the failures of some past trade agreements and the disruptions to our economy that occurred as a consequence of globalization, but rather my assessment that most trends are irreversible given the nature of global supply chains, and so we better be out there shaping the rules in ways that allow for higher labor standards overseas, or try to export our environmental standards overseas so that we have more of a level playing field.”
Pretty sure that's not what the corps promoting this deal on either side of the border have in mind here.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

This week in Real Change™

TRADE : Trade minister Chrystia Freeland ‘comfortable’ with decision to approve Saudi arms deal
“I’m supportive and I’m comfortable with the decision of our government,” she said.
HEALTHPharmacare vetoed as costly
"Pharmacare is too costly and will not be introduced in this Parliament, says Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott."
"Canada is the only country in the world with a medicare system that excludes prescription drugs as if they are not part of the health-care system." 
"Pharmacare for all Canadians could save up to $11.4 billion a year by decreasing drug costs and reducing administration fees."

DEMOCRACY : Liberal majority on Foreign Affairs Committee votes down NDP motion to create Commons sub committee to study arms exports.
Liberal Chair Bob Nault (Kenora) : "Our committee is too high-profile and too important to play politics with issues.... Parliament does not need "a special committee for every issue that people think needs to be discussed."

FINANCE : Internal Finance Canada document says Liberal "middle class tax cut" actually benefits the rich
...half of all the benefits from the "middle class tax cut" end up in the hands of Canada's top 10% of tax filers.Canadians earning less than $45,000 receive no benefit from the "middle class tax cut."

MINING : Canada is home to over 50% of the mining corps in the world - 1200 in Vancouver alone as of 2013 - and there's a reason for that : Canadian taxpayer subsidies plus minimal government oversight and only then if the corp agrees.
"The Liberal government is showing no sign it plans to change the way Canadian mining companies are held accountable when acts of violence, intimidation, or environmental degradation are linked to their overseas operations. They have endorsed the controversial CIRDI and Office of the Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor for the mining sector brought in under its Conservative predecessor." 
Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk (Kildonan-St. Paul, Man.), a former Manitoba mining minister, geoscientist, and mining sector executive, defended Canadian mining companies as “the best in the world.”

FIRST NATIONS Federal government killed appeal of residential-school settlement ruling 
"The Canadian government abandoned an appeal of a controversial court ruling that let the Catholic Church out of its responsibility to raise millions of dollars for aboriginal healing programs, court documents show.
The appeal was dropped just six days after the Trudeau government took office."
The revelation comes in a week when the Liberal government has repeatedly said that it had no options for appeal. It did not mention, however, that an appeal had been commenced and then withdrawn.'

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Decade of Military Exports to Saudi Arabia 2003-2013

April 19 Update : Liberals use majority on Foreign Affairs Committee to vote down NDP motion to create Commons committee to scrutinize arms exports. 
All 5 Liberal MPs on committee voted against motion : Peter Fragiskatos (London North Centre), Michael Levitt (York Centre), Marc Miller (Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Ouest-Île-des-Soeurs), Raj Saini (Kitchener Centre), Jati Sidhu (Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon).  
Foreign Affairs Committee Lib Chair Bob Nault (Kenora) : "Our committee is too high-profile and too important to play politics with issues. Parliament does not need "a special committee for every issue that people think needs to be discussed."
Appalled at both the size of the new military contract with Saudi Arabia and the Libs ham-fisted defence of it, Canadians have been pretty focussed on those weaponized LAVs. 

Yet we have been supplying the Kingdom with Item 2-10 - aircraft, drones, and components "specially designed or modified for military use" - continuously since 2004 when a $900K start-up contract was followed up in 2005 with a $10M contract.

Was this longterm contract also enacted as "a matter of principle" or does it fall more into the "if we don't someone else will jobsjobsjobs" category?

Data collected from DFAIT, Global Affairs Canada, and their archives:

2003 - 2005


2007 - 2009

2010 - 2011

2012 - 2013
Update : G&M : Trade minister Chrystia Freeland ‘comfortable’ with decision to approve Saudi arms deal

G&M : Dion takes responsibility for pushing through Saudi arms deal 

Thursday, April 14, 2016


October 2015 election campaign : Justin Trudeau defends the Conservative government's $15B armoured combat vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia as being just about "jeeps".

Are those our LAVs? Yes they are.

"... a retired Canadian general consulted by The Globe and Mail, who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified the LAVs being transported to Najran as fighting vehicles made by General Dynamics Land Systems. 
Critics say having Canadian-made arms enmeshed in a conflict that has claimed more than 2,800 civilian lives should prompt Ottawa to rethink the recent $15-billion deal to sell hundreds or thousands more to the Saudis."
Doctors Without Borders MSF reports a third MSF hospital in Yemen bombed by Saudi coalition forces. 

From March 21 documents  "...the department of Global Affairs recommended approval of the Saudi export permits because it could help Saudi Arabia wage war in neighbouring Yemen." 
CBC April 12 2016 Stéphane Dion approves export permits for $11B in LAVs to be sent to Saudi Arabia
Documents say past sales have not been linked to violations of civil or political rights in the kingdom

[Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion] said he can't block exports unless the armoured vehicles are being used against innocent civilians.
So far, he said, there is no evidence of that.
"Should I become aware of credible information of violations related to this equipment, I will suspend or revoke the permits," he said.
So Global Affairs' "key partner for Canada""using Canadian-made combat vehicles against Yemeni rebels" five months ago isn't sufficient reason not to forge ahead with the deal Dion lied to Canadians about as long as we don't 'become aware' the new LAVs are similarly used in the future. Got it.

CBC April 13 2016 : Justin Trudeau says jobs in southern Ontario are dependent on the Saudi arms deal

And in what will come as a surprise to absolutely no one : 
Sunni ways indeed.
Saturday Update from Mound of Sound : One More Thing About that Saudi Death Wagon Deal

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Pay to Play in BC with LNG and KBR

On Friday March 18, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna signed off on environmental approval for the controversial Woodfibre LNG Project in Howe Sound, saying the project is "not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects". 
By Monday morning, Houston-based KBR had been awarded a multi-phased Front-End Engineering and Design contract for Woodfibre.

Interesting choice. 

KBR describes itself as "a global technology, engineering, procurement and construction company serving the hydrocarbons and government services industries".

You might better remember KBR as Kellogg Brown and Root.  A subsidiary of Dick Cheney's Halliburton until 2007, KBR was once the single largest US military contractor in Iraq with a hand in building Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the sole contractor for Bagram base and the $100M US embassy in Afghanistan. 

They were in the news a bit :

2013 : Federal Court Orders U.S. Defense Contractor KBR To Stand Trial in Nepali Human Trafficking Case 

Woodfibre LNG Limited is a subsidiary of Pacific Oil & Gas Limited, in turn part of Singapore-based RGE owned by billionaire tycoon Sukanto Tanoto seen here at left with Christie Clark. One of Mr. Tanoto"s companies has also made news headlines around the world about off shore tax fraud and money-laundering.

The Woodfibre LNG KBR contract announcement was made by Woodfibre "Country Manager and VP" Byng Giraud, described as their "first North American employee." 

Formerly Conservative Resources Minister Gary Lunn's Saanich-Gulf Islands campaign manager in 2008 in what came to be known as Canada's first misleading robocall election, Mr. Giraud's bio  notes he was "on the governing council of the Conservative Party of Canada with Prime Minister Stephen Harper", so naturally Giraud and Woodfibre have supported Christie Clark's BC Liberals however they can :

VO Feb 2015 : BC Liberals sponsored by Woodfibre LNG at swanky fundraiser
"The Clark government’s BC Liberal party was sponsored by Woodfibre LNG at an upscale, private members' fundraiser event on Thursday night.
“We’d like to thank our sponsor tonight, Woodfibre LNG ...
“That treads very close to that thin line between legitimate fundraising and influence peddling ..."
That would be the thin line between a fundraiser held in February 2015 and the next BC election in May 2017. 

Photo Credit at top : Richard Duncan/Sea-to-Sky.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Selling the doubleplusgood TPP to Canadians

When she signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal above a NZ casino two months ago, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freetrade was at pains to reassure us that signing it was not the same as ratifying it, and besides there would be conversations with Canadians about it first. 
"Signing does not equal ratifying. Signing is simply a technical step in the process, allowing the TPP text to be tabled in Parliament for consideration and debate before any final decision is made."
Yesterday in Washington DC, PM Justin Trudeau called for "an increasingly integrated North America" and extolled "the investment opportunities for U.S. business on the billions of dollars of infrastructure projects announced in the Liberal budget."
Here's what he said about the TPP :
“In our conversations with Canadians, with industries which are ongoing, there are a lot of people in favour of it and there are a few who have real concerns and we’re looking at understanding and allaying certain fears ...”   
This March 10 presser from the International Trade Committee explains what JT means by "allaying certain fears" :

Second line : "The committee's primary objective is to assess the extent to which the agreement would be in the best interests of Canadians."

So will there be a whole other trade committee to assess the extent to which the TPP is not in the best interests of Canadians?

Because here's what JT's "few who have real concerns" about the global corporate rights pact are concerned about :

TPP opens floodgates to unregulated temporary foreign workers

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could see hundreds of thousands of additional temporary foreign workers (TFWs) entering Canada without any consideration of their impact on the local labour market leading to worsening unemployment among Canadian workers, labour groups warn.
The Canadian Workers Advocacy Group(CWAG) points out that 230,000 TFWs enter Canada annually under the labour mobility provisions of existing agreements, and the magnitude of the latest trade deal means that the numbers will increase significantly.
This is on top of the 165,000 TFWs who enter the country on average per year with a positive Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA).
CWAG also expressed concern that unlike other trade deals, the TPP includes developing countries such as Vietnam and Peru, and corporations will use the intra-company transfer provisions of the trade agreement to bring in low-wage workers and displace Canadians.
The minimum wage is 65 cents per hour in Vietnam and $1.27 per hour in Peru."

Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich : The New Truth About Free Trade
"I used to believe in trade agreements ...."
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz : "TPP worst trade deal ever" 
"I think what Canada should do is use its influence to begin a renegotiation of TPP to make it an agreement that advances the interests of Canadian citizens and not just the large corporations."
The Star : Joseph Stiglitz told Freeland that Canada should reject the TPP 
Economist Joseph Stiglitz says he has told his “friend,” International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, that Canada should reject the Trans-Pacific Partnershipbecause it’s a badly flawed trade deal.

The controversial but not-yet-ratified trade agreement could tie the hands of the Trudeau Liberals on two key parts of its agenda — fighting climate change and repairing relations with aboriginal people, the Nobel-winning professor warned Friday.

Stiglitz said he relayed some of his concerns to Freeland personally in January, when the two were attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland."

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