Rachel Blaney and fellow MP Tracey Ramsey hosted an anti-Trans Pacific Partnership information meeting at the Maritime Heritage Centre on Tuesday evening.
Ramsey is one of the vice-chairs of the Standing Committee on International Trade as well as the federal trade critic. She and the rest of the trade committee are compiling a report about the TPP and what Canadians think of it and presenting it to parliament. Ramsey said that this report provides the MPs with much of the information they will use to decide how to vote.
Ramsey told those in attendance Tuesday night that Canada signed on for the Trans Pacific Partnership in 2012, four years after negotiations on the agreement had begun, and when we joined we accepted everything that had previously been negotiated.
“We enter in to this position of weakness,” Ramsey said.
This past February Canada signed on the agreement. From that time parliament has two years to ratify the deal through a parliamentary vote. And that is where the trade committee and their report come in.
Ramsey and the NDP are against the TPP.
“If we are opposed to a trade deal, we aren’t anti-trade, we are just pro fair trade,” she said.
For Ramsey, and the NDP, the problem with the TPP is all of the stipulations that go far beyond a traditional trade agreement.
Ramsey said “97 per cent of Canadian exports to TPP countries are already duty free,” quoting Blair Rudlin, co-chair of Trade Justice Network. “The TPP is mostly an investor protection agreement.”
One of the major concerns that the NDP and Ramsey have about the TPP is the Investor State Dispute Settlement Agreement. Ramsey explained that when a member country enacts legislation that regulates what a foreign investor can do in that country and has potentially negative impacts on that business they can sue the government and it will all be dealt with in a secret tribunal.
Ramsey said this could have far reaching impacts on our environmental impact goals as well as our ability to expand the public sector.
“There is actually zero mention of climate change in the trans pacific partnership,” she said.
The TPP also calls for an expansion to the temporary foreign worker program.
“Imagine temporary foreign workers with no requirement to meet Canadian standards, no proof of need, no threshold on the number of workers, no mechanism to prove knowledge of Canadian regulation or laws, health and safety, building codes etc., no need for professional designation,” Ramsey said. “This has never been included in a trade agreement before.”
Ramsey said she could go down the TPP rabbit hole and talk about it all day, but brought forward only a few more examples of how it would negatively impact us as Canadians.
One was that drug costs are going to increase because the TPP extends the patents on pharmaceuticals. Another is that the U.S. would have access to our dairy market, and because U.S. dairy farmers are subsidized, ours would have trouble competing.
Ramsey said she has talked to many people who are against the TPP, some even coming in and telling their stories with tears streaming down their faces. But she also gets people coming in and explaining how much it would benefit their business to have access to the foreign markets.
“A lot of times I sit there and I listen to them talk about profits and money and all of those things and I say, ‘well how about we talk about how this will affect people,’” she said.
Ramsey wants Canadians to have better access to the markets of the TPP countries as well, but she doesn’t want to accept all of the dangerous, bad things in the agreement just to have the one good thing.