Getting started on CETA

If you’re any consistent reader of Halitrax, you might be tired of this common refrain: I want to (insert idea for positive change) but I don’t know where to start.

The idea for positive change this week, activism.

We all have opinions. Some of which have been outlined on this here blog. If you want to access political culture, there are organizations to choose from (officially recognized or not).* Especially in Halifax.

So why would anyone have trouble getting politically involved? That question is perhaps too complicated to address here. Personally, I find myself either intimidated or blasé. Don’t get me wrong, I read and vote while holding strong opinions. But as for publicly expressing those opinions at city council meetings, letters to the editor, or rallies, mum’s the word.

Like a good writer, I will relate my dilemma to a specific instance. CETA, or the Canadian-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, has come into the public eye. This exposure, I will suppose, is in part because of the publicity tour led by CUPE and Maude Barlow.

Proponents of this free trade agreement claim job growth and technological advancements are on the horizon. Detractors claim that CETA will open all levels of government to a corporate bidding war. I’ve read and listened. It has been difficult to get a clear shot of what will come of the agreement. But I remain worried.

I would favour a certain level of protectionism over free trade. CETA has been compared to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and you know how I feel about deregulation.

I think people, including myself, need to be better informed, regardless of political affiliation. While the federal government heralds the dawn of a new era, the EU is making very real demands that will impact Canadian government and resources. The consequences being great enough that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities requested “…that the provincial government negotiate a clear, permanent exemption for local governments from the CETA.”** They fear losing control of public services and increasing pressure from privatization interests.

Getting back to my original point, so far I have taken no action against the CETA negotiations. I’ve researched and discussed with friends. But I have not expressed my opinion to the decision makers.

Now I will, and you can too! Here is the contact information for the CETA authority in Canadian government. Contact any level of government. Get more information, express your opinion, whatever. I do believe this is serious business.

Trade Negotiations II Division (TPW)
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 promenade Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0G2

Fax: 613-944-3489

*I realize this doesn’t demonstrate the ‘full spectrum’ of political views, but I feel the right has enough clout as it is.


7 thoughts on “Getting started on CETA

  1. Great points France. I appreciate that you’ve referenced two of my heroes (Maude Barlow and Fred Penner). Incidentally, I saw Fred Penner live in concert when I was little (jealous?) and he shaped my childhood. I saw Maude Barlow in person a few years ago and she’s influenced many of my purchasing decisions as an adult.

  2. Great post, Fran.

    I’ve followed a bit of this story, and from what I’ve read/watched, it’s pretty terrifying. Consider what’s happening in so many other countries right now – people are farming food to be shipped off to other countries while their own families barely have anything to eat. It’s criminal. And the CETA could do something similar to Canada. “Ownership” of Canadian water is a frightening prospect, especially. We can’t rely on huge corporations, who notoriously privilege profits before people, to make responsible choices that do no harm (let alone benefit) Canadian people.

  3. It further disadvantages local procurement. Corporations can undercut smaller businesses for contracts. Without preferential treatment, smaller businesses really can’t compete. Especially when corporations can threaten legal action if they aren’t given a “fair shake”.

    Zero accountability is a scary thing.

  4. Good post!

    I know very little about “free trade” apart from that it seems almost universally to be a synonym for environmental degradation, exploitation, and loss of domestic sovereignty – with cheap junk to keep everyone quiet. But the activism part really interesting. As you might know, I’m pretty opinionated about certain things (mostly taxes and economics; I know, what a drag), yet I feel like I never have the time to act on anything. I think this is quite common, and Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” has framed the issue in terms of civic disengagement (awesome read if you’re into charts and stuff). The proliferation of easily accessible, high sensory entertainment (television, Youtube, etc) and individualized gadgets (video games, laptops, iphones) make a reclusive lifestyle far more appealing (although I recognize that not everyone with such gadgets are introverts). Combining these changes with the growth of dual earner households, urban sprawl, growing labour force attachment and more irregular working hours really makes it difficult for people to coordinate various social activities.

    A related argument that I’ve heard (I believe from some anarchist types – *added credibility*) is that wealthy societies have gotten good enough at providing for mostly everyone’s needs and an acceptable amount of their wants that people don’t see the point of activism and civic engagement. We’ve really bred a culture of cynicism with respect to being proactive. Why go through the trouble of protesting at the G20 if you’re well fed and relatively happy or at minimum better off than your parents? (economist hat) If you assume that activism or the decision to protest is a function of discontent and the majority of the “middle class” is more or less content in terms of their needs/perceived wants, then you would expect A) activists to be more extreme in their political leanings or young/bored than those of yesteryear and B) the social causes of activists and their protests to be less appealing to the middle class. I think that this is possibly one scenario, given that the vast majority of comments attached to articles from major news sources are responding negatively to G20 protests (and tax increases).

    Anyway, someone should follow up on this and form a club where each week/month we choose by consensus something that’s pissing us off and write a letter of complaint en masse to our local MLA/MP.

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