CETA: Only thing we know for sure is that Canadians will bear the brunt of costs | National Union of Public and General Employees

CETA: Only thing we know for sure is that Canadians will bear the brunt of costs

"Now, unless Mr. Harper gets his former chief of staff to write a personal cheque to cover this cost, the extra money for the provinces is going to come from our pockets, from the tax money we have paid." - Larry Brown, NUPGE National Secretary-Treasurer.

By Larry Brown
National Secretary-Treasurer
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)

Ottawa (25 Oct. 2013) - Imagine a union leader, who was being investigated for misuse of union funds, suddenly announcing that he had reached the best collective agreement ever.  But when his members asked what exactly was in this historically wonderful collective agreement – timed so conveniently while the official was embroiled in a spending scandal – the union leader said he couldn't tell anybody what was in the deal! In fact he didn't even have a piece of paper confirming that the deal was reached.

Praise for Canada EU trade deal misplaced and premature since deal lacks detail and is not even complete

Now try to imagine that this leader received all kinds of public credit and praise for reaching such a conveniently timed agreement, the contents of which are secret and impossible to verify or judge.

That's impossible to imagine, right?  It's just too silly a scenario.  Any similarity to real events is --- unlikely. 

As improbable as it seems, in some quarters Prime Minister Harper is being greeted as a hero for announcing that the Canada - European Union trade deal his government has been negotiating for several years now is maybe, almost certainly, kind of definitely, close to being finalized.

When and if this deal, called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), is really finalized, there will be winners, for sure. 

Public not a winner in this trade agreement

Large corporations will be freer of government control than before. 

European companies will be able to demand damages if a decision of our federal or provincial or municipal governments interferes with their right to make a profit. 

Pharmaceutical companies will make an even more exorbitant profit because the cost of drugs will go up even more than they already have. 

Corporations will be able to move to the lowest wage jurisdiction they can find and still sell their products in Canada without the inconvenience of tariffs. 

Low wage companies from Europe – not every country in Europe is full of well paid workers - will be able to build our schools and bridges and hospitals, even if Canadian workers are thrown out of work as a result.

And the few manufacturing plants we still have, after two decades of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), will be hit once again; we will lose more good manufacturing jobs in Canada.  Canada will be even more reliant on oil, and gas, and other non-renewable resources.

So while there are winners in the corporate suites, we can find many losers, on the farms and in the workplaces of Canada.

Canadians will bear the brunt of the economic costs of trade deal

But the most amazing, unrecognized part of all this?  The taxpayers of Canada will pay directly for all of this.  Since corporate taxes in Canada could hardly get any lower, that means that people who work for a living and pay their taxes will pay a premium for the damage being done to the Canadian economy by CETA.

The increase in drug costs will cost individuals big time.  It will also cost provinces big time.  Billions of dollars a year.  No problem there; Mr. Harper has promised that the federal government will cover the provinces' extra costs.  Not the extra costs borne by individuals, just the cost to the provinces.  Now, unless Mr Harper gets his former chief of staff to write a personal cheque to cover this cost, the extra money for the provinces is going to come from our pockets, from the tax money we have paid.  We will pay more for our drugs, and our tax payments will go to help out the provinces. 

The dairy industry is going to be hard hit?  Yes, but no problem, Harper is going to cover the extra costs to the provinces for aiding the dairy farmers who get crushed by CETA.  That means again we will pay for that help.  The notoriously tight-fisted Harper government, especially when it comes to programs that benefit Canadians, is doling out our money hand over fist when it comes to getting provinces on board with CETA. 

The extra costs Harper has promised to cover are already in the billions, and we haven't heard from all the victims yet. 

Higher costs, lost jobs are two major side effects of CETA - but there's more to come

That provinces would be so completely unprincipled as to agree to provisions that will hurt their citizens, so long as the cost doesn't hurt their budgets, is sad.

That we will end up paying through lost jobs and lost opportunities and higher costs, and then pay again through our tax dollars so that the provinces shut up about the damage CETA will do, is outrageous.

If, and when, Mr. Harper reaches an actual deal, with actual clauses in it, he will then have to explain to Canadians why they should be happy with a deal that costs them twice, once directly and once when they have to pay for the damage to provincial treasuries.

Union leaders know that there are two steps to an agreement; the tentative agreement, and the ratification of that agreement.  Mr. Harper has crossed neither of those bridges, and when he gets to ratification he may find that particular bridge is a bridge too far.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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