Winter is coming.
As Canadians, we all know what that means. We’ve built our northern country by knowing how to survive in a harsh, unforgiving climate. Staying alive means staying warm.
It doesn’t mean saying inside, though. It means putting on your parka and going to work in the cold.
At one time, that’s how we approached international trade. Canada has always been a trading nation, but we weren’t naïve. We used to manage our trade. Deals like the Auto Pact, which made car companies produce cars in Canada in exchange for selling them here, laid the foundation for prosperity in this country. We traded, sure. But we protected ourselves, too.
Stephen Harper’s latest trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is all about giving away the protections that keep our economy together. His idea of surviving in a harsh climate is to throw off his toque and mitts and run naked in the snow. Not a smart idea.
We don’t have many details of the TPP, which was negotiated in secret. But what we do know is not good:
- If the TPP goes ahead, Canadian dairy, poultry, and egg farmers will lose some of their income.
- Our auto industry is expected to lose 20,000 jobs, mostly in Ontario.
- TPP countries won’t be able to require that personal information in databases be stored within their country.
- Companies from TPP countries will be able to sue any government that does anything the companies think interferes with their right to make a profit.
All in all, the Trans-Pacific Partnership makes democratic governments weaker and global corporations stronger. It won’t be good for working people.
The TPP is merely the latest in a series of trade deals that started with the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement in 1989. Back then, big business promised us “jobs, jobs, jobs” – and not just any jobs, but highly-skilled, highly-paid jobs. But the promise was a lie. Today there are 400,000 fewer manufacturing jobs in Canada than there were when the free trade era began. And the workforce today has more and more part-time, temporary, temp agency jobs with low wages, little job security, and few benefits.
Stephen Harper’s TPP will take us another step down this same cold trail.
But here’s the good news: the Trans-Pacific Partnership isn’t a done deal. All 12 countries, including Canada, have to ratify it. And there’s a federal election on. So there is something we can all do, and what’s more, it’s easy.
Stopping the TPP starts with stopping Harper. Keep that in mind when you head out to vote.
Because Canada’s worth protecting.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union