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The Debate Continues on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

The debate on the cynical BC Liberal motion continued again today. The motion stated:

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.

Once more I rose to speak strongly against the motion. As I noted yesterday when I spoke against the proposed BC NDP Amendment, the TPP will have dire consequences for our technology sector – one of British Columbians greatest economic opportunities. Today I continued on that theme and also took the opportunity to rebut some of the more outlandish claims from cheerleaders of the motion within the Liberal caucus. The most egregious of these was from the Minister of Agriculture who said this:

As history has shown us through the decades, through the millennia, at some point in the future, mankind will find some way of causing another world war, or some pestilence will hit us or something will happen where we’ll see our borders close. We want to make sure that we continue to grow agrifoods right here in B.C. so that if ever — and I hope it never comes — that day comes, we’ll be able to be even stronger in feeding ourselves.”

You literally cannot make this stuff up. The Minister of Agriculture is using a food security argument to justify the TPP in case of world war or a global pestilence outbreak. As I argue between the 2:00 and 3:00 minute mark, the Minister has it entirely backwards.

Below I reproduce both the text and video of my speech. The motion passed because of the Liberal majority.


Text of Speech


A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to rise not to speak in support but to speak in opposition to the motion we have before us.

As I mentioned yesterday, the TPP is fundamentally bad for British Columbians. The TPP was signed by 12 Pacific nations — Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, United States, Singapore and Vietnam — in New Zealand on February 3, 2016.

We heard a lot about trade agreements with China and South Korea yesterday from members opposite, but this has nothing to do with trade agreements with China, South Korea, India or others, despite what members opposite might think.

That takes us to the point — the point that this motion was brought to us and the Legislature before the text of the TPP was even available. How cynical is that? How cynical is it for a government to make its mind up on an agreement that it has not even got the text of to determine whether or not they support the agreement? It’s very cynical.

We know, in this Legislature, the singular reason that they’re bringing the motion forward now is because they’re trying to make hay on the fact the federal NDP passed support for looking at the Leap Manifesto. It was rather an odd decision, mind you, but they passed support to go forward with that and study it for two years.

This is a good opportunity the government can take to actually make hay by trying to make the official opposition look bad in a substanceless debate — a debate that stoops to such levels as discussing what will happen to food security when we have outbreaks of disease and pestilence and world war.

Can you believe this — that the Minister of Agriculture is arguing for TPP; that we need to enter into free trade agreements, which have indemnity clauses in there that protect the rights of multi-national corporations over the rights of the British Columbians and Canadians; that we, somehow, should sign this agreement in case world war breaks out?

You can’t make this stuff up. Not only does it not make sense, but if this agreement were signed and war broke out, according to the agreement, we’d be liable to ensure that food still went elsewhere. It’s exactly the opposite, which shows me, clearly, how intently and intensely members of government have actually looked at the agreement. I don’t think they have. Well, I know that they haven’t.

I’m willing to wager that if there is one person in this Legislature, in this House, who has actually read the agreement, it is the member for Surrey-Whalley. Nobody else, including me, has read all 6,000 pages. I’ve read a bunch of the pages, but not 6,000.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: Again, identified just there in the heckle is someone, or two, from members opposite who said: “Are you sure you read 6,000?” That’s after I just said: “I didn’t read all 6,000.” This shows exactly the level of understanding this government has of the actual document before us.

The TPP, as I outlined, contains investor-state provisions that give foreign corporations — an investor, so-called — the ability to sue Canadian government — the so-called state — in secret tribunals over any legislation which would hurt their profits further, such as regulations defending human health, labour safety or the environment. So in case we have world war breaking out, and we want to protect our agrifood industry for local consumption, in fact we can’t, despite what the Minister of Agriculture might say.

We have some high-profile cases under NAFTA, an agreement where rulings have gone against Canada because of unfair restrictions. I could, for example, talk about the arbitration panel ruling against Canada after a U.S. company argued a joint federal-provincial environmental review board decision to disallow a quarry in the small fishing community of Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, imposed unfair trade sanctions. The U.S. company is now seeking $300 million in damages.

We’ve got another. A NAFTA panel recently ordered Canada to pay Exxon Mobile Corporation and Murphy Oil $17.3 million after Newfoundland and Labrador required offshore oil producers to have money allocated to research. We’ve got TransCanada, a Canadian example, behind Keystone XL, launching a $15 billion lawsuit against the U.S. under NAFTA.

In and of itself, these are examples, but what we have under NAFTA, of course, is the ability as a nation to withdraw from NAFTA, with appropriate notice. With TPP, we’re signing away our life and future generations, as the substance of exit clauses is unknown

I come back to the Tufts University report that I cited yesterday. Why I thought that was important to come back to is I want to touch upon the conclusions of this report, which fundamentally underline why this is a bad agreement for British Columbia. It says as follows: “In the main existing assessments, the TPP is projected to generate small gains in GDP in most participating economies. However, these projections are based on an economic model that assumes full employment and invariant income distribution, thereby excluding, from the outset, some of the most serious risks of trade liberalization.”

As I mentioned, yesterday I gave an example of the assumption using cars. The fact that this model that was used to make one or two…. The models that the government is relying on assumes full employment. Full employment is a poor assumption in a trade deal that’s talking about the creation of jobs. In fact, when more realistic assumptions are used, the TPP is projected to cost 58,000 job losses in Canada — not job gains, job losses. Full employment is not guaranteed, because the company will not just pay workers lower and lower amounts, they’ll move elsewhere and shut the factory down.

The article’s concluding remarks continue. “Projecting the effects of the TPP with a different economic model, based on the realistic assumptions about economic adjustment and income distribution, leads to different results. We project that the TPP will lead to contraction of the GDP in the United States and in Japan and negligible income gains in other countries.” It’s one of the reasons why the U.S. is actually talking about not ratifying this agreement. They’re talking about not ratifying this agreement because the agreement actually will lead to a contraction in U.S. GDP.

“We also project job losses,” it says, “and higher inequality in all participating economies.” That includes B.C. “In the fact of negligible or negative income gains, the costs of the TPP are projected to fall asymmetrically on labour.”

“Furthermore,” it says, “when analyzed with a model that recognizes the risks of trade liberalization, the TPP appears to only marginally change competitiveness among participating countries. Most gains are therefore obtained at the expense of non-TPP countries.”

It says, finally: “Globally, the TPP favours competition on labour costs and remuneration of capital.” Let me reiterate that, please. The “TPP favours competition on labour costs.”

How do we translate that into the Canadian economy? How do we reconcile with that with the projected 58,000 job losses in Canada? It’s quite simple. As I said again, TPP favours competition on labour costs. Declining labour costs is not going to benefit British Columbians. It’s not going to benefit Canadians, and the reason why is clear. We have a certain standard of living here in British Columbia that we ensure with minimum wages, benefits, etc., that people who work here enjoy.

Now, if I’m going to dig up a mine somewhere, I’m going to consider one of the following. Should I go into British Columbia and make a mine here, where we have an expectation of environmental standards being met? We have an expectation that we’re going to have to work in partnership with First Nations? We have an expectation that we are going to have to pay union wages? Or, should I open up a mine now in Indonesia, which is well-known for far less stringent environmental concerns, paying far cheaper wages and also geologic formations that match British Columbia and elsewhere?

The choice is quite simple for a multinational corporation that is beholden to shareholders that are not residents of the region that you’re employing but are globally around the world — some of whom have interesting Panama bank accounts. When you are accountable to your shareholders, you are — in essence, without any internalizing of social or environmental costs — trying to race to the bottom. You are looking for the cheapest way of digging that rock out of the ground and bringing it to market.

The cheapest way means the non-B.C. way. The cheapest way means the non-Canadian way. The cheapest way means find the most despotic nation in the world that has zero environmental standards, no labour standards. You build your mine there because your costs of doing it are minimal. That is why the TPP will create job losses in Canada.

I cannot believe that member after member opposite stood up and blindly said: “This is going to create job opportunities for British Columbia.” I don’t think they’ve even read the analysis of the TPP. Frankly, I don’t think they know what the TPP is.

Let me give some more examples. Michael Geist, the Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of British Columbia, took a 50-day analysis of the TPP. Every day he was putting something else out. I’m not going to read all 50 of them because we’d be here all day. They are fascinating. They are insightful. Let me just outline some critiques for members opposite.

The first one was Canada was at a negotiating disadvantage from the start, because Canada was a latecomer to the agreement and had to plead to get in and gave concessions to get in, particularly with copyright and other laws. “Intellectual property rules lack balance,” according to Mr. Geist. “Copyright costs: term extension, criminal liability and digital locks” are of concern. “The TPP copyright provisions,” he said, “will require significant changes to Canadian law and limit Canada’s ability to implement future reforms.”

Does that sound like a benefit for British Columbia? I’m not so confident.

More IP changes — patents, trademarks, trade secrets and geographic indicators — is another area of concern. Here he says: “The concerns with the TPP’s intellectual property chapter extend well beyond copyright.” He talks about patent to term adjustment rules. He talks about protection to the next generation of pharmaceuticals.

This is certainly to the benefit of multinational corporations looking to maximize profits for the wealthy few and, certainly, not in the interest of the workers in the factories producing these products.

He talks about the risk of privacy — privacy risk. I’ll come back to that. He talks about — which I’m going to expand upon for most of the rest of my time here — how this is a step backward for the Internet and technology.

Before I go into that cost, let me just say that there are risks. He argues about risks from investor-state dispute settlement provisions, health costs and regulation risks and restrictions on Canadian cultural policy.

Let’s come back to the tech issue. We all know in British Columbia that nobody thought this government was going to become elected in 2013. Nobody, including government themselves. So they dreamed up an LNG strategy that was selling a bill of goods to Canadians. We’re going to have a $1 trillion increase in GDP, a $100 billion prosperity fund, 100,000 jobs, Debt-free B.C. and thriving schools and hospitals. Wow. Who would not want to vote for that?

But it was nothing more than fiction, a fictional dream offered to British Columbians as a form of a Hail Mary pass of hope that was caught, because British Columbians believed. Shame on them for believing the government. Clearly, the evidence is that we should not believe what the government is saying. They believed them, and they ticked the wrong box. A few too many of them got elected, them being the collective B.C. Liberals.

Here we are in a situation where we have a reckless management of our province, reckless economic trajectory of our province and a government that now realizes it can’t deliver on LNG.

What it’s not saying, while it’s trying to actually pin the NDP as being anti-trade-deals…. What they’re not saying…. It’s really interesting if you go through Hansard and look. They’re not saying another one of the key reasons why they like this agreement. It’s because they’re desperate to deliver on Petronas, a company based in Malaysia, a signatory of TPP. Reducing investment in infrastructure, likely not going to go anywhere in northern British Columbia…. It doesn’t have a supply gap to fill any time soon.

They’re desperate. Give it away some more. Let’s just send them a signal that TPP is actually going to be good for us, because then it’s actually good for Petronas.

Nobody mentioned Petronas yesterday in the speech. They talked about agrifoods. They talked about cattle. They talked about sparkling wine. Okay. It may benefit the sparkling wine industry. But who they didn’t talk about, who it really benefits, are people like Petronas, the multinational based in other jurisdictions that they’re chasing to the bottom to try to develop a resource. The economics don’t even work. But this is them trying to desperately give away a resource, to say: “Look. Listen to us. We’re here. We’ve done what we’ve said we’d do.”

What’s so ironic about this is in their fiscal folly over the last three years, what we have now in British Columbia are not natural gas plays anymore. We have legal plays now. Not natural gas plays, but legal plays. Companies investing in LNG in British Columbia are now seeing legal opportunities for settlements because of the reckless promises of this government and the inability to deliver to a market. So these are now becoming legal plays. At what cost?

The tech sector will be devastated by the TPP. I raise natural gas only because we see from government, as of last August, when they recognized, oops, LNG is going nowhere…. Staff were suddenly told: “You’d better hold a tech conference in Vancouver in January.” They scurried to hold a big tech conference to celebrate tech, a sector they have essentially given up on, let fall by the wayside for years, a clean tech sector that they’ve killed through the construction of Site C and a signal to market that it’s all about LNG or nothing in B.C.

They created this tech conference, but they don’t understand the tech sector. They don’t understand the tech sector, because TPP is bad for the tech sector. Let me give you some examples. More than 250 tech companies signed a letter demanding greater transparency from Congress back last year. They were decrying the broad regulatory language in leaked parts, at the time, of the TPP trade deal, the deal that was signed in secrecy — 250 tech companies in the U.S.

Coming back to Mr. David Wolfe, let me summarize what he said in the Globe and Mail a few weeks back. In fact, the actual date was March 26 of this year, so just a couple of weeks back. He said this.

“Canada’s problems are compounded by the bias against technology-based industries that exists in small, open economies. The barriers to entry associated with technological innovation disadvantage smaller firms to a greater extent than larger ones. At the same time, the domestic market does not provide an ecosystem for them to scale up.

“To the extent that these economies are home to a greater proportion of small, indigenous firms, the entire economy is placed at a disadvantage with respect to competition in high-technology industries. The public incentive to support those firms that compete in technologically intensive sectors is much greater for a small, open economy than for a larger one. Transforming the research and design base of firms in this economy and ensuring protection of their knowledge base is necessary for effective competition in the 21st century.”

Jim Balsillie, co-founder of Research in Motion, producer of BlackBerrys, said something about TPP that expands upon the words that I just read from Mr. David Wolfe. What Mr. Balsillie pointed out is as follows.

“TPP raises the minimum global IP standards of the World Trade Organization by extending and enforcing the U.S. IP regime and interest all TPP countries. Make no mistake,” he says, “This is not your father’s trade agreement. TPP clearly demarks the shift in global value creation from tangible to intangible goods by providing unprecedented advantages to current large holders and producers of IP.”

This fellow should know what he’s talking about because, as I’ll show in a second, his company was one of only a few such 300 top organizations that granted U.S. patents.

How many Amazons are in Canada with central offices? How many eBays? How many of the global multinational corporations are based in B.C? We have Hootsuite struggling along. B.C. has created an environment where companies get so big, and then they move to the U.S. Now, with TPP, it will cripple even that incubator component of the tech sector in British Columbia.

Coming back to what Jim Balsillie said:

“Canada does not have the arsenal of valuable IP to benefit financially from such provisions. The Intellectual Property Owners Association’s most recent ranking of Top 300 Organizations Granted U.S. Patents lists BlackBerry as the only Canadian entry. In their Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents, UBC was the only Canadian university, listed at 78th place, with 29 patents granted, compared with the University of California’s 453.

“Canadians create world-class innovations, he says, but we fail to commercialize them. A recent Conference Board of Canada innovation report ranks Canada second to last on the ability to patent our ideas — a core aspect of ideas commercialization. With so few Canadian companies and universities positioned to benefit from TPP’s IP provisions, we are ill-prepared to compete with countries possessing hundreds of such wealth-generating entities.”

That’s from somebody who should know, Jim Balsillie, former co-founder of RIM, based in Waterloo. It goes on. We have here another quote that says the following from a law professor. The law professor in this particular case is Michael Geist again, an expert on Internet legal issues.

“If things don’t go Canada’s way” he says, in a CBC News piece in August of last year “— and on a lot of issues Canada is playing defence, is in the minority — then it’s going to require a major overhaul of our copyright law.”

He further said, and the article states:

“Geist said a section of the draft text could even require Canadian Internet service providers to block access to websites that contain copyright-infringing material in response to court orders from somewhere else in the world.”

Then he said this:

“It’s something the government has consistently rejected through copyright reform process.”

It goes on and on. He talks about the fact that this is a made-in-America point. He says that when you look at the digital policies — things like copyright, intellectual policy, privacy rules, Internet and Internet governance rules — there’s some real harms that we find in this agreement. This is not good for B.C.’s tech sector.

Finally, on another topic of great concern, is the issue of privacy. Now, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, FIPA, has raised concern, as pointed out in a Business in Vancouver piece, that TPP provisions could override B.C. law governing data storage. It’s not just FIPA that’s pointed it out. It’s others, as well, as I’ll come to.

In quoting this article in Business in Vancouver by Tyler Orton, published back in November of 2015, it says the following: “Victoria enacted laws requiring sensitive data to be kept within Canada after concerns arose in 2004 that B.C. health data could be subject to the U.S Patriot Act if stored outside the country. The TPP, however, states governments cannot require companies to use service within their own borders as a condition of conducting business.”

To be very, very clear on this, article 14.13 of the TPP establishes a restriction on legal requirements to do so. Here is the quote: “No party shall require a covered person to use or locate computing facilities in that party’s territories as a condition for conducting business in that territory.”

We blindly walk into this agreement. We blindly walk into this agreement in a cynical ploy to try to pin the NDP in British Columbia to their federal counterpoints who enacted a study for two years about the Leap Manifesto.

Hon. A. Wilkinson: Counterparts.

A. Weaver: Counterparts. I recognize it’s the same party, but in their defence, there was not a single member of this party in this House on the Sunday on the floor.

Hon. A. Wilkinson: I’m just trying to correct Hansard. You said “counterpoints.”

A. Weaver: Did I say “counterpoints”? The Minister of Advanced Education so dutifully corrects me, and I am so very grateful for being corrected here as to using the word “counterpoint” to “counterpart.”

Thank you, hon. Minister. It’s such the appropriate ministry, too — the Advanced Education.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: I’ve been relegated to an A-minus. I had one A-minus, hon. Minister, when I was an undergraduate — only one in my time as an undergraduate, and now I’ve got my second.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: I’ve got a lot of A-pluses. Not lots of times. I would be happy to share my undergraduate transcript with you. I did graduate with an 8.95 GPA, not a 9. I was crushed. I got that one A-minus, and my GPA was 8.95 — not 9.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: The members opposite…. We’re having an ego battle back and forth, hon. Speaker. But he got the Rhodes Scholarship. I did not. I only got to the interview stage. The member opposite actually got the Rhodes Scholar.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Anyway, I digress. I digress.

So finally, hon. Speaker….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Finally, hon. Speaker….

I’ve just completely had my legs cut out from me from the Minister of Advanced Education in this debate. He wins. Sorry.

In conclusion, this deal is a bad deal for British Columbia. This deal is a bad deal for Canadians. This motion should not pass. This government should be ashamed of itself for bringing this cynical motion forward at a time when they hadn’t even got the agreement to actually explore the details of. Thank you.


The Vote


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Video of Speech


One Comment

  1. Joni Olsen-Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    The TPP is gives preferential treatment to big foreign money, this agreement directly violates aboriginal rights to land, claims and the resources. Ever since it became legal for First Nations to bring a case to court We have consistantly proven undeniable rights and ownership to the land and resources. Small and large deals all across this country that recognize the unethical and illegal basis in which Canada acquired sovereignty. This country has worked very hard over the last 160 years to hold authority over this land it is weird to me that they are so easily selling out on it. Globalization the agri food system and many other systems that run our lives pollute and destroy the very resources that are there to keep us alive. This agreement is wrong on so many levels and is going to cause many very large problems. Aboriginal groups will fight for these same resources giving opportunity for large foreign corporations to sue Canada over lost revenue. This is in nobody’s best interest why is this population so stuck on this dis functional system, so near sighted, scared, ignorant, brainwashed!

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