Canada a resource colony for China
Oct 31, 2012 / 12:39 pm
A New Democrat government would do everything in its power to extricate Canada from a controversial and imminent investment treaty with China if it turns out the agreement isn't in the best interests of Canadians, says leader Tom Mulcair.
Critics say the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement would turn Canada into little more than a "resource colony" and is poised to be ratified despite almost no parliamentary debate.
Mulcair, speaking after question period Tuesday, said an NDP government would find a way to get out from under the deal after the next federal election in 2015 if closer inspection revealed it wasn't in Canada's best interests.
"You can sign into an agreement and then you can remove yourself from the agreement. That's what successive governments can do," Mulcair said.
"We're not going to be bound for the next 30 years by an agreement that hasn't even been studied, that would make our court system take the interests of foreign investors and foreign companies pass above the interests of Canadians, the interests of our environment, the interests of our rights."
Bolstered by more than 60,000 signatures on petitions and a precision-targeted letter-writing campaign led by activists, the NDP, Liberals and Green party Leader Elizabeth May began a last-minute push for a fuller debate on the agreement.
"China is just as important as the United States and we should really be treating this treaty with just the same level of public scrutiny and debate as NAFTA," said Matthew Carroll, campaigns director for Leadnow.ca, an advocacy group that organized the petition and has flooded MPs with emails and letters.
Canada and China signed the agreement at the beginning of September, and the government tabled it in the House of Commons near the end of that month. Under new rules set by the Conservatives, the agreement must be before Parliament for 21 sitting days before it can be ratified.
That time runs out on Thursday. After that, the cabinet needs to sign off on it through an order-in-council. It's not an automatic process, but the Conservatives have given every indication that ratification is imminent.
The agreement comes into force when both countries have ratified it.
"With this agreement, our government is bringing to Canadian investors the protection and predictability to invest with confidence in China, the world's second largest economy," Rudy Husny, a spokesman for International Trade Minister Ed Fast, said in a statement when asked if the government would be willing to hold off on ratification to allow for more debate.
The agreement has been 18 years in the making and is a replica of many other foreign investment protection agreements Canada has with its trading partners, he said.
The opposition has had ample opportunity to examine the China deal, but chose to use its four opposition days in Parliament on other subjects, he added. Plus, government officials have briefed MPs on the deal, he said.
"We have a government that is refusing normal, democratic process," said NDP industry critic Peter Julian.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May argues that the deal would give Chinese corporations, and the government that owns them, new powers to influence Canadian policy, not just in terms of investment and industrial development, but also in the realms of environment and health.
And since Canada is clearly the junior partner in the trading relationship, Canadian governments at all levels will have little choice but to cater to the whims of a China desperate for natural resources, she said.
"We become the resource colony in that context," said May.
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