News Article

The Security Prosperity Partnership - A North American deal made in the dark, asserts federal NDPer

By Olivia Komorowski, Gauntlett, University of Calgary

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Concern over Canadian sovereignty is growing as New Democratic Party MP Peter Julian lectures citizens on a national tour.

The disquiet is stemming from a little-known extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement that doesn't require parliamentary approval and whose meetings take place behind closed boardroom doors. The "dialogue," known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, was instigated in Mar. 2005, with a goal of increasing security and prosperity by harmonizing standards between Mexico, the United States and Canada. However, the partnership, which is neither an official treaty nor agreement, has been faced with opposition from the public.

The initiative was led by three heads of state: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, American President George W. Bush, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Discussions have included ministers of industry and commerce, trade, energy, transportation and CEOs of internationally recognized companies such as Bell Canada Enterprises, General Motors, Ford, General Electric, Wal-Mart, Suncor Energy Inc., and Scotiabank.

What has worried Julian is that these discussions take place beyond the reach of parliamentary approval, since it is not an official agreement.

"It is antidemocratic by design," he said.

This means the opinions of Canadians don't need to be taken into consideration when deciding priorities and investments. Both federal Conservatives and Liberals have supported the SPP, whereas the NDP and Green Party wholly oppose it. But without enough seats, their opinions have little weight, noted Julian.

The profound secrecy shrouding the matter has done nothing to soothe these concerns. Julian explained the national media has been neglecting to cover the issue thoroughly.

"When you look at the corporations that are promoting this agenda, many of them are also media owners," he said. "In a sense, we have a tacit acceptance of soft censorship on an issue that is fundamental."

Documents attainable through the Freedom of Information Act have had heavy censoring, if they're even available, complained Julian...

"It makes individual citizens ask, 'who are they representing?'" said Council of Canadians member Ted Woynillowicz. "Do they represent citizens, come to public forums, or do they represent corporations involved in these agreements?"

University of Calgary Consortium for Peace Studies program manager Kelly Dowdell questioned if SPP is beneficial for Canadians.

"If this is so good for Canada, why aren't they shouting from rafters saying 'look at all this marvelous work we're doing, look at what negotiations we've managed to get'?" he said. "They're remaining very silent about it."

In fall 2006, a meeting including top pentagon officials, CEOs and government figures such as Stockwell Day and Dick Cheney, became controversial.

"[It was] staged in Calgary, and in the dark of the night they bussed themselves to Banff Spring Hotel," said Alberta Environmental Protection officer John Chan.

No media had been invited to cover the important event.

The 1989, Canada-U.S. free trade agreement was supposed to bring prosperity to Canadians, however Julian is skeptical.

"Stats Canada figures show that for two out of three of Canadian families their real income has gone down since 1989 and that's most dramatic with the poorest of Canadians," he said. "The wealthiest 20 per cent have seen their incomes go up 20 per cent. That's the six million in the highest income bracket. [They] now take half of all income in Canada."

Conclusions that have been drawn from available documents and media are that the SPP threatens Canadian water resources, Canadian control of oil and our foreign policy, noted Julian. Though water is not considered a commodity under NAFTA, Canada has nothing to prevent such a sanction from taking place. In fact, after British Colombia banned the export of bulk water, Sun Belt Water Inc., a Californian company, filed a $10.5 billion lawsuit against the province under Chapter 11 of NAFTA for damages.

Stephen Harper denied accusations that SPP plans on exporting bulk water to the U.S., however the Council of Canadians claimed a leaked document pertaining to a 2007 private SPP meeting in Calgary revealed aims for bulk water exportation.

Equally necessary to America's depleting resources is Canadian oil. Under NAFTA, Canada must continue to supply the states 65 per cent of its oil and 61 per cent of its natural gas, even in the event of a national crisis. This could require Canadians to import more oil from other countries to fulfill commitments to NAFTA.

"The future for all policies and regulations will be continental in nature" stated the Council of Canadians website. "This would mean granting U.S. investors greater access to our energy supplies, something the Bush administration and the energy industry have been pushing."...

"[The SPP] essentially takes away what sovereignty we have as Canadians," he [Julian] said.

The NAFTA agreement, which SPP stems from, has had questionable beginnings, noted Julian. He explained Chretien's promise to voters was to stop NAFTA but that once he got elected, he ended up signing the deal anyways.

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