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Opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Today in the Legislature I rose to speak strongly against the cynical motion brought forward by the BC Liberals:

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 and services from all sectors including forest products, agrifoods, technology, fish and seafood, minerals and industrial goods, and through the transition support will be available 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.

Let’s be very clear, this motion was introduced purely for political reasons — political reasons aimed at painting the BC NDP as the “Party of No”. As I pointed out in the fall, the motion to support the Trans Pacific Partnership was put on the order papers before the text of the TPP was even available. The BC Liberals made up their mind before even reading the text. In my mind, that is a reckless approach to governing.

The TPP, especially the investor-state dispute settlement clauses, poses a serious threat to the sovereignty of our province. It places the interests of multinational corporations above the interests of British Columbians.

It is a 20th-century trade strategy applied to a 21st-century economy. Supporting the TPP will have dire consequences for our technology sector – one of British Columbians greatest economic opportunities.

Since the monumental failure of the BC Liberals LNG plans, they have been going out of their way to try to court technology companies, talking about leadership in this sector and how government is there for them. Today we see that was all talk, as they swiftly cut the legs out from under this industry with this motion.

Signing this deal will also undermine our ability to be climate leaders. If we are serious about addressing climate change we will have to implement more aggressive policies to reduce our emissions, under this agreement that would put us at a distinct trade disadvantage if other countries did not follow suit.

The BC NDP proposed that the motion be amended by deleting the text after:

 Be it resolved that this House, acknowledging the importance of diversifying trade to create jobs for British Columbians, supports

and substituting,

referral to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for robust and transparent discussion and public consultation on the long-term job creation and employment impacts for British Columbia of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Formally, my speech below was against the NDP amendment. For the reasons I outline below, and those I will outline further when I speak to the main motion, I am categorically opposed to the TPP as it will deal a devastating blow to BC’s technology sector. Sending this cynical motion to committee will not address this fundamental objection. Besides, the federal government is already undertaking consultation on the TPP which falls within federal jurisdiction.

All in all, today was one of the lowest points as my three years as an MLA. To see the Liberal government stoop to such low levels makes it clearer than ever to me — the BC Liberals need to be voted out of office. They are more interested in the quest for power than they are in actually governing in the best interests of British Columbians.

Below is the vote on the amendment, the text of my speech and the video of my speech. I will be speaking and voting against the main amendment when it next appears on the Order Papers.


The Vote


Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.47.40 PM


Text of my Speech


I rise to speak in opposition to the amendment — not because I don’t understand the direction that the official opposition is heading, but because the TPP is bad for British Columbia. I have heard so much rhetoric coming from the other side, but let’s be very clear. The motion that we are debating today was brought to this Legislature initially in the fall. It was brought to this Legislature before the text of the TPP was even available.

That tells me that members opposite…. Frankly, I would bet a lot of money that not a single member opposite has actually taken the time to read the agreement. Members opposite, honestly, I would argue, are just touting government lines. They talk about this being good for jobs. Well, let me give you some evidence here that I’ve actually got, in studying this.

I’m holding a document called Trading Down: Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partner Agreement, written by Jeronim Capaldo and Alex Izurieta from Tufts University, as part of the global development and environmental institute. Let’s be clear what they say.

Overall, the TPP is going to be a job loser. How much so for Canada? Canada will lose 58,000 jobs through the passage of the TPP. This isn’t about creating jobs; this is about losing jobs. Net exports in Canada will go down by 6.6 percent of GDP. This is not good for Canada; this is not good for B.C.

The reason why the government is touting job growth numbers is because they’re quoting from economic models that had a fundamental error in them. The fundamental error was that they assumed 100 percent employment, whereas, if I can give you a wonderful example of what it means and how perverse in this context.

Full employment is not a good start for economic analyses to make estimates on job creation. Here’s the example. Let’s say, for example — it’s coming from this Tufts document:

the demand for cars were to drop below producers’ expectations. The economic models that this government is relying on, assuming full employment, assume that car prices will fall, ensuring that all production is sold. Faced with lower-than-expected profits, car producers who want to cut costs may reduce the number of workers employed. However, since labour markets also supposedly enjoy price flexibility, wages will fall, ensuring that all auto workers remain employed, either in the car industry or some other sector.

That’s clearly an incorrect assumption. If prices fall, companies close down plants and workers lose their jobs, which is why, with the more realistic assumption with not full employment, we understand that this agreement will lead to 58,000 job losses in British Columbia.

Coming back, let’s be clear again. This government puts a motion on the table before they have even seen the text of the agreement, because the text is not public. Can you believe this, hon. Speaker? We are not making this up. It’s a reality and a matter of public record. Go to Hansard on the day that this motion was tabled. I tweeted out that day.

The text isn’t even available, yet this government is touting the TPP as good for British Columbia. Why? Because today’s B.C. Liberals are nothing more than yesterday’s Harper Tories. This is a playout of the Harper Tory playbook, which is negotiate deal, come hell or high cost, for the best interests of the corporate entities and the multinationals, not in the best interests of Canadians.

Let me outline some other reasons I disagree with the TPP as being good for Canadians and, hence, why I am not supporting the amendment. I’m opposing the actual motion in the first place, and I do not think we should be discussing these matters further in light of the fact that it is federal jurisdiction, and this is not in British Columbia’s best interests.

The first and most obvious reason to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership is because of the threat it poses to the sovereignty of our province, primarily because of the investor-state dispute settlement clauses found in chapter 9 of this agreement. This government clearly hasn’t even read the document. It’s essentially saying that we’re tying future generations to investor-state dispute clauses that then have provisions that allow for a company to sue our government if that government implements a regulation, law or policy that affects the future profits of the company.

Such claims would be settled in secret, through secret tribunals outside our justice system. This is what this government is putting forward, in a rah-rah, cheerleading fashion. Why? Because Petronas told them to do this; because one of the very few jurisdictions, in the 12 jurisdictions that are part of this, that benefit is Malaysia.

This government is so desperate to deliver on an election promise that they knew had no hope of winning — it was purely an election strategy — that they’re selling out future generations, yet once more, in an irresponsible manner here.

Why would we support a trade deal that limits our sovereignty, that places the interests of multinational corporations above the interests of British Columbians? As legislators, it is our duty to act in the best interests of the electorate, not in the best interests of multinational corporations based elsewhere.

This type of provision is not new. It currently exists under NAFTA as well, but let’s outline that it’s quite different in NAFTA. Under NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, we know we can end NAFTA, as a nation, within six months, but with the TPP, we have little clear indication of how easy or difficult it is to withdraw from the agreement.

“Sign a blank cheque,” this government says, “and give our British Columbia sovereignty, our Canadian sovereignty to multinational corporations based elsewhere,” in a desperate attempt to land a Petronas deal that they’ve already written an agreement for that, frankly, we should be debating about eliminating because it’s such a giveaway. We’re debating greenhouse gas reduction bills in this Legislature yet once more, to give yet another giveaway. Reckless, reckless economics.

Opposition to this bill comes from across the political spectrum. You have every presidential candidate on both sides in the United States opposing the TPP. By “every,” I mean Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and, bless him, Donald Trump. Now, I couldn’t see people further across the political spectrum than Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. But you know, they’re joined by

But they’re joined by other perhaps more economically savvy — because that’s their background — viewpoints. Let me quote, for example, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. This isn’t some Johnny-come-lately who has taken first-year economics at perhaps some local university and failed it twice, and maybe the third time they passed it.

This is a Nobel Prize–winning economist, and he says this:

I think what Canada should do is use its influence to begin a renegotiation of TPP to make it an agreement that advances the interests of Canadian citizens and not just the large corporations. It used to be the basic principle was polluter-pay,

he says. “If you damage the environment, then you have to pay.”

Now if you pass a regulation that restricts the ability to pollute or does something about climate change, for example, you could be sued. They could be paid billions of dollars. This deal was done in secret with corporate interests at the table,” he said.

And he described this, succinctly, as the “worst trade deal ever.” And that’s not a failed economist; that’s a Nobel Prize–winning economist — Joseph Stigler.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Stiglitz. Sorry. Thank you to the hon. Minister of Advanced Education for correcting me — and from the appropriate ministry as well. The ever-helpful minister.

Honestly, it’s mind-boggling that we’re doing this. Let me quote another person. This is David Wolfe. David Wolfe is a co-director of the innovation policy lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and author of the introduction to the second edition of Trade, Industrial Policy and International Competition.

This is another esteemed academic. He says the following:

As Canada’s negotiation strategy for TPP, the previous government adopted the traditional approach to international trade agreements. They bargained for increased access to international markets in the economic sectors where Canadian trade performance is strongest, while sacrificing some protection in the domestic market, especially in the manufacturing sectors. The trouble with this approach is that it is a 20th-century trade strategy applied to a 21st-century economy. Canada negotiated TPP in the rearview mirror.

The United States,” he said,

did the opposite in the negotiations. They aimed to secure competitive advantage for knowledge-based hydro sectors with the greatest potential for expansion in the 21st century. The 21st-century business world is less and less a material enterprise that builds physical products and more and more a virtual enterprise that is driven by software and technology. Think Google, Monsanto, even Tesla. In the 21st-century economy, it is the algorithms which drive the success of the enterprise and the intellectual property that underlies companies’ business models that are most critical for economic success.

When I hear this government argue that this is good for the tech sector, I’m wondering what they’re taking, because it is very clearly in the worst interest of the tech sector, as highlighted by industry after industry after industry rep.

Why do you think that both the Republicans and the Democrats in the U.S. are opposing this? Why they’re opposing it is because it takes too much power away from the elected governments and it favours international corporations over the interests of the people. We have been elected here in the province by the people of this province to represent their interests, not the interests of corporate donors.

I also wish to raise another concern — that signing this deal will undermine our ability to be climate leaders. This government wants to have it all, and they’ll say anything they can to tell the people just anything. “We are going to sign TPP because it’s going to increase jobs.” They don’t even recognize that their own analysis out there say that we’re going to lose 58,000 jobs in Canada. “We’re going to do TPP because it’s good for the tech sector.” It’s the exact opposite. “We’re going to do this. We’re going to do that.” Say whatever it takes. “We’re going to be leaders in climate, but we’re going to go natural gas expansion.”

It just doesn’t work that way, and it’s about time that this government stands up and be truthful with British Columbians. If we’re serious about being climate leaders, we’ll have to implement more aggressive policies to reduce our emissions, and the Premier has committed to do that.

Whether we believe it or not, that’s another thing, but the Premier has committed to do that.

This deal will put us at a distinct trade disadvantage as follows. If other countries don’t follow suit, we’re in trouble. For example, if we want to reduce the emissions from our farms in order to combat methane, we might require or put incentives in place for farmers engaged in animal husbandry to install some methane-capturing technology. Maybe….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Innovative technology. I’m giving an example. No, it’s actually…. The Minister of Advanced Education…. I need to educate him. It is the cow burps, not cow others, that cause the methane. It’s from the multiple stomachs in their digestion. It’s coming from the mouth.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: That’s right. Nasal juice.

However, it could make them uncompetitive against farmers, say, in New Zealand. Under TPP, Canada would not be allowed to put up trade barriers to level the playing field. So let’s suppose that New Zealand doesn’t put any innovative measures in place and we are, and then we say: “Hang on. Our farmers are now at an unfair disadvantage, so we’d better put some barrier up. They don’t have a carbon price. We do. We’d better put a carbon price on the boundary.” Well, we can be sued by the corporations involved, even though we’re operating as a Legislature in the best interests of the people.

There are a number of other problems around intellectual property, labour standards, agriculture, food and medicine. And I have, frankly, a huge issue with the fact that the deal was negotiated in secret, and I think there’s ample evidence, as I’ve outlined, that this will cost our economy thousands upon thousands of jobs.

While I stand in opposition to the amendment to the motion, and I will stand in opposition to the motion itself because of these substantive concerns about the TPP, I also question this government’s cynical approach to this issue. At 6,000 pages in length, I seriously doubt that a single member in this House has even read a fraction of the provisions. I doubt a single member in this House — with the exception of the member for Surrey-Whalley, because I know he’s probably read the whole thing — has actually read even a fraction of what’s there.

This is not the type of issue that governments should be swinging wildly at, hoping to score cheap political victories by trying to put the opposition up about the Leap Manifesto, which some people brought from the floor in a conference. Shame on the government. Shame on the government for belittling the importance of the autonomy in B.C. by playing cheap political points.

Madame Speaker: On the amendment.

A. Weaver: Hon. Speaker, on the amendment, the government’s…. As I point out, why I’m not supporting the amendment is that the political posturing that we see on the issue has real consequences for one of British Columbia’s greatest sectors, the technology sector.

This is a sector that this government is trying desperately to bring forward in a desperate hope to find something for the next election campaign. Yet this is the single worst thing that they could do to the tech sector in this province: support this bill. They need to come out unequivocally and say, “We’re opposed to this motion and the amendment,” because if the amendment were to pass, inherent in that is that we’re going to study it some more, but ultimately, the decision we should be making today is that this is a bad motion.

These aren’t just my concerns, nor are they partisan concerns. This is what experts are actually saying. Another one: Jim Balsillie, the former co-CEO of BlackBerry. He said this: “Ten years from now, we’ll call that signature the worst thing in policy that Canada has ever done, and it threatens to make Canada a permanent underclass in the economy of selling ideas.” Hardly supportive of the tech sector. The former CEO of RIM says it threatens to make Canada a permanent underclass in the economy of selling ideas.

What about Michael Geist, the Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa? Well, he said this: “This is a made-in-America approach that’s advanced by the TPP.” In an interview, he said it further: “I think when you look at the digital policies, things like copyright, intellectual property, privacy rules, Internet and Internet governance rules, there’s some real harms that we find in this agreement.”

Real harms to a sector that this government is claiming they’re supporting. Yet they’re throwing that sector collectively together under the bus in one fell swoop by putting this motion forward and even by taking it forward through the amendment to a committee for further discussions. There’s a huge hypocrisy out there.

Government has been going out of their way to try to court technology companies, talking about leadership in the sector and how the government was there for them.

Today we see that was all talk, as they swiftly cut the legs out from under this industry by making this signal to the market that technology is not welcome in B.C. We are speaking daily to Petronas, and Petronas is the one guiding British Columbia policy. Shameful.

I cannot support the amendment because, fundamentally, supporting the amendment implies that I see hope in the original motion as it’s written. As that motion represents a betrayal to B.C.’s technology industry, it’s a betrayal to the creative economy in British Columbia, it’s a betrayal to hundreds of thousands of British Columbians, and it’s a betrayal to the democratic process that this cynical motion brought to us today is being debated here.

The government is saying: “We have no real desire to lead in this area, and we’re willing to use you, the technology sector, for political gain. We’ll take some photo ops with you. We’ll throw a conference, pretend like we’re doing something.” But this motion, even if sent to committee through the amendment, fundamentally throws the technology sector under the bus.

Let’s call it for what it is: a sellout — a sellout to Petronas, a sellout to British Columbians, a sellout to Canadians — and, let’s be honest, 58,000 job losses in Canada if the TPP were to go forward.


Video of Speech


10 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Kaller-Reply
    April 18, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    a sellout to Petronas, a sellout OF British Columbians, a sellout OF Canadians

  2. Onni Milne-Reply
    April 18, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Thank you for speaking out against the TPP. Everything I hear about it sends a big NO to my heart and brain. It is no surprise that Christy Clark and her government are in favour of this bill. The first comments above stated clearly their disregard for BC citizens. I have difficulty with the ‘democratically elected’ comments above. Examples of the Robocall and In/Out situations show us that ‘democracy’ is a farce in Canada, so why not in BC as well.

  3. Douglas Jackson-Reply
    April 17, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Thank you Andrew,

    If there is any doubt that investor-state dispute settlement clauses in free trade deals are anything but free, one only has to do some basic research to discover Canada is the most sued country under the the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism contained in NAFTA’s chapter 11.

    Perhaps the most alarming of which is the case involving Ethyl Corp. (1997)

    For the present provincial liberal government to endorse the TPP without even considering its contents is not only asinine but shamefully indicative of this governments complete lack of consideration for the welfare of the citizens of British Columbia.

    One also does not have to look to diligently to find complete and utter contempt shown by the present liberal party to the citizens of B.C. in regards to the Site C project.

    With so many dire. immediate needs in this province including but not limited to healthcare (patients are lining hospital hallways, most have no family doctor, nurses are run into the ground due to a shortage of them) education (schools are over flowing and structurally dangerous in the event of a major earth quake and teaches are routinely abused at every opportunity) child and family services (children in the ministries care are taking their own lives at an alarming rate) affordable housing ( there is none)
    policing (criminal violence is out of control in B.C. )

    So where does the provincial liberal government focus their attention? They burden British Columbians with billions of dollars debt for a mega “Site C” dam project that is not even needed. Powerex Corp ( A wholly owned subsidiary of B.C. Hydro) is currently selling hydro electric surplus.

    Unbelievable incompetence shown by this current gang in government. Truly, mind boggling ineptitude.

  4. April 14, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you!

  5. Jim Bennett-Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 6:51 am

    I thought you gave an excellent speech that reached far beyond the norm in today’s British Columbia Legislative Assembly. So top marks for content and reason.

    I’d like to know more about the model used for predicting the 58,000 job loss for starters. However you scored points with me on predicting the loss of sovereignty for our province to international companies that don’t share our values and the points made by our tech sector regarding potential loss of their right to intellectual property protection.

    Having given you those points, I might add that I think you should have supported the Official Opposition Motion to send the whole matter to Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for further debate and testimony by the public. Our MLAs need further education on this issue.

    • April 14, 2016 at 8:55 am

      Thanks Jim. And fair enough about the Standing Committee. The TPP is quite a unique beast. It falls within Federal jurisdiction and this motion is just a cynical BC Liberal ploy to paint the BC NDP as the “Party of No”. Sending it to committee doesn’t change the fact that the TPP is bad for British Columbians and other Canadians in my view. Rather than delay a decision on this and waste tons of taxpayer money taking this to committee in a process that will not influence the feds (who are already undergoing an extensive consultation process) in my view it was just better to move on.

  6. kelsey-Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 12:36 am

    is it true to say that unlike the Federal Parliament, committee work in BC’s legislature is a rubber stamp of a joke?

    • April 14, 2016 at 8:51 am

      Not really. It’s fair to say that the Liberals never send bills or motions like this to committee. We live in an Oligarchy.

  7. sinbosn-Reply
    April 13, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    We elect MLA’s: democracy in action. MLA’s vote on a wide variety of issues: again, democracy in action. If Mr. Weaver can’t abide democracy in action, perhaps he should go back to private life and the ivory towers of academe

    • April 13, 2016 at 11:00 pm

      Not sure what you are talking about. I voted and I explained my vote. I do that with everything I do in the legislature. Perhaps you should ask other MLAs to justify their positions on various votes. Ultimately we are elected by our constituents and we owe it to them to tell them why we voted the way we did.

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