October 07, 2015

The TPP "should be a ballot issue": How the Trans-Pacific Partnership might impact abortion, drugs, gay marriage and more

MJ SheppardRebel Blogger

So Brian Lilley put up this video on Monday when the Trans Pacific Partnership deal was announced.

What he didn't point out is that he knows about as much about it as I do. He, like the rest of the country, really just knows the government's talking points.

I'm personally in favour of free trade. Indeed, the first vote I ever cast was for the U.S Free Trade Agreement.

I do, however, have some concerns about TPP.

1) I don't trust the Americans to live up to it. They have yet to sign a deal that hasn't been undermined by some nobody senator from nowhere who has a bug up his butt about something, or a presidential candidate's endless huckstering of the stupid. I'm exhausted by having to revisit decades-old trade agreements every two to four years because American politicians are genetically incapable of abiding by them.

Mr. Lilley states that the U.S will ratify TPP "with or without us", which is actually far from certain.

President Obama's passage of fast-track authority was a very closely fought thing. He had to rely on Republicans to get it, and that didn't even happen until the last minute. And the Republicans who voted for fast-track don't seem all that committed to final passage. And with an anti-trade populist, like Donald Trump, leading the Republican primaries, ratification seems increasingly unlikely. The same is true of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. When the populist wings of both parties are against something in an election year, I wouldn't bet that the Americans "are going to pass it, with or without us."

2) Whether online privacy should be annihilated in the name of national security is debatable. That it should be just to keep Hollywood lobbyists happy isn't.

By the way, how much of a say are our authoritarian partners like Vietnam and Singapore going to have in Internet regulation? Does C-51 get scrapped because it doesn't comply with the U.S First Amendment? The deal, by definition, strips all sorts of sovereign power away from the signatory countries. How much remains uncertain because no one has seen the actual text yet. If TPP can strip away the Harper government's copyright law, who can say that it can't regulate other online laws? Will The Rebel be able to continue to use other media's video under "fair use" after TPP?

We simply don't know. We don't know any of that.

3) If individual foreign corporations have the ability to overturn domestic laws, democratically arrived at, there's very little point in having politicians at all. We should just have the bureaucracy and the courts run everything.

This has the potential of giving us the worst of both worlds, where we still have to vote for scumbags, but they don't have any actual power to legislate. That's new.

I have the power to vote against individual politicians, but to change the board of directors of a corporation, I'd have to buy a great deal of stock and attend board meetings, which I'm too poor and lazy to do. By the way, so are you, especially if it means going to New York, Tokyo, or even Santiago every three months.

On the other hand, if you like giving "unelected judges" and "foreign money" even more power than they already have, great! Just don't complain about it later. Watching the media wing of the Harper Party  arguing with their own past (and present) positions might just be worth it. Like it or not, entities like the Tides Foundation will have the same rights to sue the Conservative government over our laws that, say, Nabisco will.

I'm for marriage equality, but I suspect that a good deal of the people reading this aren't. Under TPP, it's entirely possible that corporate lawsuits can change the definition of marriage through the loophole of defined benefit plans. Or contraception coverage. Or paid abortions. Remember, wherever corporations  have the latitude to run rampant over domestic laws, so too do unions.

4) I want to see how this impacts things like the government's bulk buying agreements on things like pharmaceutical drugs, and their impact on price. If government can no longer negotiate price with corporations, I have a hard time justifying the continued existence of government. Besides which, negotiating price is one of the central tenets of capitalism itself. As we saw in the banking crisis, corporations aren't all that enthusiastic about capitalism when it doesn't go their way.

5) Conservatives of all stripes want to see all of the side-deals and negotiating points between Iran and the IAEA on the nuclear deal, but TPP makes that illegal for four years. I want to see that circle squared before I decide anything. Canadians should see exactly what their government gave away, when, and for what.

6) I want to see the full text before the election. Since Harper has demonstrated that he'll lie about anything that Jason Kenney can create a social media meme about, I don't trust his talking points.

7) I agree with Tom Muclair that Harper's caretaker government doesn't have the legal authority to negotiate international agreements during a writ period and present them to Parliament as non-negotiable. And I'm pretty sure that the Conservatives would feel that way about an NDP or Liberal government doing precisely the same thing.

8) In the event of a minority Parliament, this should ABSOLUTELY be a confidence vote. More than anything else since 1988, it should be a ballot issue that Canadians should get more than two weeks to make up their minds about.

Based solely on what I know about it, which isn't all that much, I'd vote against it. I'm persuadable, but that relies on everything being put out there and an honest debate being held.


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commented 2015-10-11 00:49:09 -0400
What an interesting post! On point, but not quite… All economists agree that NAFTA was good for the Canadian economy (3% annual growth and an estimated 2.5 million jobs). Unhappy were just some unions, to no one’s surprise. After all, what is the salt of a union if unable to override a free trade agreement and get an escalating protectionism war going. Right? I would concede that some American unions have way more “umph” and that socialist Obama pushed the limits of protectionism with his stimulus union fattening deals. I really, really liked the twist on the likelihood of losing our anti-terror measures as a result of free trade. Imaginative? Sure! Real? Absolutely not! TPP is a complex trade agreement that is way above the ability of the general public to comprehend. For example, the issue of parallel imports implies a degree of protectionism for the price of copyright protected pharmaceuticals were forbidden, and creates a downward pressure on medication cost where permitted. To suggest that such a technical issue should be subject to a plebiscite is absolute madness. However, the point of the author is to scare and confuse and the combination of unrelated and vague assertions points to a dishonest even if mostly ignorant intent. Authoritarian regimes have much more to fear from free trade agreements than any true free market economy. Indeed, corporations will have the ability to challenge under the agreement trade protectionist measures, including those already in place. All agree that dairy industry protectionist quotas, under the supply management system will have to go. All the average voter needs to know, however, is that the price of dairy products will likely drop substantially. I could not help it to lough out loud at the suggestion that a technical non-profit such as the Tides Foundation might be able to sue the Conservative government under TPP. This is rich! If everything else might have been born from ignorance, this is the dead giveaway that that this column is intended to brainwash and manipulate the low IQ conservative reader that may stumble upon it and that it was written by someone who is anything but a conservative. The author (who suspects that many of us readers of the Megaphone do not support marriage equality – Oh! My! My! What a degrading supposition) also fears that foreign unions will run roughshod over our domestic laws. I liked this one, because, unbeknown to the author, he accidentally stumbled over a grain of truth: international proletarian solidarity is undermined by the unionized movements’ support for trade protectionism. I’ll allow for #4 to be simply an expression of ignorance. To help: free trade agreements to not impede on buyer and seller freely negotiating a price. They do however, eliminate the interference of a third party in that negotiation. Fear not! Bulk buying medication shall not be affected. I doubt that seeing the whole text of the TPP before the election date will help the author because, frankly, I doubt that he can understand 90% of it. It may however, provide a bonanza for senseless spin aimed at scaring the unaware – and this might be the only real utility for the author. Mr. Mulcair’s assertion that the government’s ability to continue its executive functions once the writ of elections issued is absolute nonsense. It’s like saying that the Federal system can no longer enforce the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, because a differing view is on the ballot. But there is nothing new with left wing “revolutionaries” inventing selective rules just for the sake of appearing more rule bound, when they are nothing but. My bet is that the author votes NDP. It’s nice, however, to have him around. You never know when a good idea might unexpectedly stick. :-)
commented 2015-10-07 21:21:00 -0400
Watch out for Trudeau and Mulcair, listening to them is going to leave Canada standing on the side of the road with the crumbs not even able to run industrys’ as did you notice Mulcair only spoke of us buying from a few of the old suppliers’, by importation.. he did not speak in terms of Canada being able to export products to a bigger market! What is the good of manufacturing when you only have a small list of buyers? The TPP won’t be perfect but it contains’ 40% of the world economy of the worlds most advanced countries!
commented 2015-10-07 15:19:21 -0400
The left have tried to demonize PM Harper at their own peril, since day one. The outright lies, and garbage that they think they can throw out, and it will stick. Even the younger generations are starting to see this, and then they discuss it with their friends. I learned a long time ago that those who are making the most noise, need to be watched more closely. Especially when we are dealing with those suffering from Harper Derangement Syndrome. I am all for the deal, and I personally don’t believe our current PM to be a liar, but he is surrounded by those in opposition, who become more gleeful, with each insult they level at the best PM that Canada has ever had. I am glad that we have a PM who has more brains and class than anyone on the left will ever possess. Vote accordingly!
commented 2015-10-07 12:16:45 -0400
Well, Mr. Sanctimonious Sheppard, if your favourite party wins the election then they don’t have to ratify it, do they? I’m betting that whatever party, even NDP, wins the election the deal will be ratified. All this bluster about “how can we trust Harper…etc.” from you, Trudeau, and Mulcair is pure disingenuous election blarney and you know it and everyone else knows it too.