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Debating the unknown – pettiness in politics

Yesterday in the legislature Honourable Teresa Wat, Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for the Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism, introduced a motion for debate. Here is the text of the motion:

Be it resolved that this House, acknowledging the importance of diversifying trade to create jobs for British Columbians, supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership because: the Trans-Pacific Partnership removes trade barriers and provides preferential market access for B.C. goods from all sectors including forest products, agrifood, fish and seafood, minerals and industrial goods; the Trans-Pacific Partnership provides support to our supply-managed industries; the Trans-Pacific Partnership provides more access for service providers in professional, environmental, and research and development fields; and ultimately, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will increase investment and create new jobs and opportunities for many British Columbians.

A quick read of the motion would seem to suggest that it is an entirely sensible topic to debate. Trade agreements are important and debating their details would be something MLAs should be expected to do. I would welcome the opportunity to join the debate. But the reality is that this motion is nothing more than an cheap political trick by the BC Liberals to try corner the official opposition into a position of opposing trade. It may seem odd for me, a BC Green MLA, to come to the defense of the official opposition here, but the fact that the Liberals proposed this motion now is outrageous for two crucial reasons.

1) The first, and most important, reason is that the text of the agreement is not yet available. How can anyone possibly inform themselves on a topic when the text of the agreement has yet to be released.

I would argue that this alone is the proof necessary to demonstrate the cynical political stunts of the BC Liberals. All that is publicly available is a Technical Summary of the Agreement that was put up by the now replaced Conservative Harper government. Trade agreements are complex and the devil is certainly in the details.

2) On Monday we elected a new government. The Federal Liberals clearly indicated in their election campaign that:

“If the Liberal Party of Canada earns the honour of forming a government after October 19th, we will hold a full and open public debate in Parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted on this historic trade agreement.”

Well as we all know, the Federal Liberals did indeed earn this honour.What message is the BC Government trying to send to the new Federal Government? They propose supporting an agreement that we have not seen the full text of. They propose supporting an agreement prior to engaging the public in a transparent dialogue as to what it contains. And they propose supporting an agreement even before the new Federal Government – the jurisdiction that negotiated the agreement – has even determined if it supports the agreement.

If ever the evidence wasn’t already clear, it is now:  there’s clearly nothing Liberal about the BC Liberals.

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