Smoky Mountains Sunrise

Monday, February 11, 2008

SPP: A Canadian Perspective

Hassan Yousseff (left), Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, and NDP Trade Critic Peter Julian address the crowd at the London (Ontario) forum.
Photo by Ross McDermott,

From: London Topic

The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) was a hot topic at London's (Ontario) Wolf Performance Hall, Friday (Feb. 8), where NDP Trade Critic Peter Julian told those in attendance that the controversial agenda is about much more then just "jelly beans," as stated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and if continued, could become a threat to Canadian sovereignty.

About 90 people turned up at the London forum to hear the reasons the federal NDP are vehemently opposed to the SPP, which was thrown into the spotlight last summer when violence broke out as police clashed with protesters during the annual trilateral meeting of the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S., at the Montebello Summit in Quebec.

In one instance, Quebec police officers disguised themselves as protesters and, according to the Council of Canadians, attempted to incite a riot during what was a peaceful demonstration (see video below).

Julian was hosted by London-Fanshawe MP Irene Mathyssen, and was joined by Eduardo Sousa from the Council of Canadians and Hassan Yousseff, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress. The two-hour forum provided information that could be viewed by some as a threat to Canadian sovereignty.

The SPP began in Canada as a Prime Minister Paul Martin, Liberal government initiative in March, 2005, to boost co-operation on security, trade and public-health issues between Canada, the United States and Mexico. However, staunch criticism of what some see as a closed-door agenda has raised concerns among people on all sides of the Mexico, U.S. and Canada borders.

"We are essentially giving up our ability to function independently as a nation, and essentially that is what is at stake with the SPP," said Julian.

For the most part, guidance in relation to decisions being made within the SPP is provided by a group called the North American Competitive Council (NACC). Officially launched in June of 2006, the NACC was comprised of the 30 senior, private-sector representatives, 10 from each of the three countries, with Canada's 10 including Dominic D'Alessandro (Manulife Financial); Paul Desmarais, Jr. (Power Corporation of Canada); David Ganong (Ganong Bros. Limited); Richard George (Suncor Energy Inc.); Hunter Harrison (CN); Linda Hasenfratz (Linamar Corporation); Michael Sabia (Bell Canada Enterprises); Jim Shepherd (Canfor Corporation); Annette Verschuren (The Home Depot); and Rick Waugh (Scotiabank).

Julian told those in attendance that the NDP have compiled 10-top reasons why they are opposed to the SPP.

"It's anti-democratic by design," he said, adding the SPP discussions are being held behind closed doors.

There are 19 working groups involved with the SPP, all operating behind closed doors, and over a two-year period the NDP, through access to information requests, managed to procure documents in relation to these closed-door, working group sessions. "We finally managed to get the documents…hundreds and hundreds of pages…" Julian said, holding up pages marred heavily in thick, black lines – most, if not all of the information vetted out. "Courtesy of the Government of Canada," he said.

This veil of "profound secrecy" began with Martin and the Liberals, and in a "seamless transition," is being carried on today by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

However, Julian continued, within those documents the party was able to determine that there were more than 300 areas of safety and protection, "important to Canadians," he said, adding the SPP contains a "deep and wide agenda." He said the SPP has been called the next logical step to follow NAFTA. But noted Canadians rejected NAFTA in two national elections, and though the majority of individuals in this country suffer economically under that agreement, with the SPP things will only get worse.

Julian talked about hazardous wastes and said during the Montebello Summit, the way Canada handles its hazardous wastes was handed over to the U.S. "While Canada's system was not perfect, in the United States there is no tracking of hazardous chemicals," Julian said.

Last spring Harper announced the harmonization of allowable pesticide residue on food to match American levels – levels much higher than those previously upheld in Canada. This is detrimental to the health of Canadians and unfair to Canadian producers, Julian said.

A major threat related to the SPP concerns natural resources such as water, oil, and natural gas, he said.

"Water stewardship is fundamental in Canada. We know that despite the fact that we have 20 per cent of the world's fresh water supply, only six per cent of the world's renewable water is found in Canada," Julian said.

The export of bulk water is not permitted under NAFTA, unless one province or jurisdiction approves such activity. At that point any company can apply for bulk water exports and if Canada does not comply, those companies can sue for compensation under the controversial Chapter 11.

"Water diversion is on the agenda of the SPP," Julian said. "Though we haven't seen any concrete plans yet there is no doubt that there is a huge appetite in the United States to simply divert Canadian water."

In relation to oil and natural gas, Canada has already given up more sovereignty in the area of energy than any other country in the world. Under NAFTA Canada is obliged to share 60 per cent of its oil and 60 per cent of its natural gas with the United States, even in the event of a major supply shortage.

"Mexico said 'No' to the same arrangement – it's crazy," Julian said, adding "Under the SPP the negotiations are going even further. Essentially our energy resources will be considered part of the strategic energy resources of the United States."

The issues surrounding softwood lumber, he continued, is just the beginning. Though Canada has seen more than 10,000 job losses in the lumber industry, and Washington having a veto over any changes to Canada's forestry policy, thanks, once again to NAFTA, "Under the SPP that veto will extend across the economic spectrum and other industries will be treated the same way."

Julian touched upon what he called "the slippery slope of civil rights," noting that already Canada has mirrored its southern neighbour – implementing a no fly list. In the area of military he said Canada's capacity is now based on "working with the U.S. military," and the tradition of Canada being thought of as a peace-keeping country, "a Canadian invention," he said, is swiftly becoming a thing of the past.

In addition, he noted, the latest foreign policy report from 2007, "specifically referred to Canada relating its foreign policy to American priorities."

Julian urged the public to speak out against the SPP, in order to stop the "deep, wide-ranging agenda."

Hassan Yousseff, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, said engaging the public will be a challenge.

"It's hard to get the public to engage in regulatory issues in their own country, never mind what's happening at three national levels… and that is the tremendous challenge which we face."

Yousseff said one of the biggest conspiracies related to the SPP is the lack of coverage coming from the national media. Pointing to the Montebello Summit, he noted that the trilateral meeting received very little press.

"It was only when police were exposed disguising themselves as protesters – and that was the story. The bigger story of what the three leaders were doing in Montebello, of course, never got the debate that was required – never got reported," he said.

He too echoed the need for Canadians not only to speak out against the SPP, but to demand information regarding the three-country discussions that take place every year.

"I wish it were about jelly beans, then I would stop worrying," Yousseff said. "It's critical we understand the debate because if we don't understand the debate we might put the same bastards back in power."

Eduardo Sousa with the Council of Canadians said 9-11 provided a vehicle for the powers that be to propagate the SPP under the guise of security. He urged the public to visit the Council of Canadians website to view a chronological timeline (see link) outlining the events that have happened since 9-11, all directly related to Canadian sovereignty and the SPP.

"We're giving away sovereignty over our energy – sovereignty over our water – our ability to determine what is safe and what is good in more than 300 regulatory areas – to determine what is good and safe for our environment – our collective ability to decide, as Canadians, what kind of society we want to create," Julian said, adding, "What is left?"

BEYOND THE ONIONS: Time for Canadians to stand up and stop the SPP
WEB: Council of Canadians -- SPP Timeline
WEB: Government of Canada -- Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America

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