We don’t want companies able to sue our governments

Cowichan Bay – I have been pleased to see the letters in the Citizen by Trudy Thorgeirson and Donna Cameron pointing out the costs to Canadians of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That trade deal and the one being negotiated with Europe (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and with China, all contain clauses guaranteeing the right of companies to sue a government for laws that the company feels have harmed or could harm their business, even if those laws protect the best interests of the citizens of the country. Because these investor/state provisions take power away from our elected representatives to make laws protecting our wellbeing and the health of our environment, and cost governments money, they are becoming so controversial that some countries are questioning them. Australia, for one, has balked at their inclusion in the TPP, and in Britain in January, a motion in the British House of Parliament, signed by MPs from all parties, called for trade talks with the U.S. to be frozen because of a similar investor/state provision, and members of the European parliament have also expressed their concerns about them in CETA.

There is also a much more practical reason to not want these investor/state clauses included in trade treaties: they cost us our hard earned taxpayer dollars! In 2010, the Harper government gave the giant U.S. paper company AbitibiBowater $130 million of our money when the company threatened to sue them through the investor/state clause in NAFTA. The dispute arose when the company closed its mill in Newfoundland in 2008. The province took back its rights to the timber and water because it said that the terms of the company’s 1905 lease with the province said those rights were contingent upon operating the mill. The federal Conservative government stepped in and decided to pay up rather than face a costly suit, so it just handed over the $130 million.

One hundred thirty million dollars! Imagine what else we could have done with that money – more money for health care, or more money for job training programs, or extended EI benefits, or properly caring for veterans with PTSD, or better schools on First Nations reserves, or…. The list of projects that need money more than a big U.S. company is very long! We really have to let our governments know that we don’t want these types of provisions in our trade deals.

Nancy Clegg

Cowichan Bay