The Week That Was in the federal election - and just what is the TPP going to mean to us - if anything?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 5, 2015


Ray Rivers has been writing a column on political issues in the province and across the country.  The Gazette asked Rivers to drop his regular column and write instead on what took place during the week.  This is his fourth column on the federal election and what has transpired to date.

The polls are starting to widen as Canadians begin the process of finally making up their minds. The Liberals are trending up and the NDP down, as the two parties have virtually swapped positions from the start of the campaign. Atlantic Canada is consistently showing red and the prairies blue, but Quebec, Ontario and B.C. are still very much in play.

What were the issues that got the electorate to this point?

The Munk debate on international issues was by far the best debate of the campaign followed by Friday’s French language debate in Quebec, thanks in part to the skilled moderation of these events. It is unfortunate that so-called ‘wedge’ issues have come to override the debate of serious issues at this late date in the campaign.

niqab - fear

The niquab – it is being made into an object of fear rather than a part of religious dress for some people. It has also become a fashion statement for some woman.

One of those wedgies is Mr. Harper’s promise to ban the ‘Niqab’, a simple woman’s head garment, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that a ban is unconstitutional. It is superfluous the Court says. Everyone is already required to show their face for identity and photographs prior to the actual swearing-in. Further, security is ensured through background checks and signatures, making the Niqab debate such a non-issue.

The PM is ‘full of baloney’ on this issue, according to those who meter these things. But more important is his shameless misleading of the Canadian public. Another wedge issue, also in play, is the annulment of a person’s citizenship.

The loss of citizenship is the last thing the group of 18 Toronto terrorists will regret as they rot in prison for the rest of their lives. But isn’t this a slippery slope – removing the rights of citizenship for some bad actors begs the question – why stop there?


Citizenship ceremonies take place across the country – they are proud moments for those participating.

Citizenship is a serious matter. Don’t we need to have a serious discussion about making it two-tiered, and conditional on the whim of a desperate PM, in the midst of an election campaign? One of those 18 being ‘de-citizened’ was born in Canada, with parents who long ago renounced their original citizenships to become Canadians. Where would Mr. Harper deport him to if he weren’t already headed to a Canadian prison for the rest of his life?

But the really big story this week is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which the PM is determined to sign, without debate, even as we sunset this election campaign. Encompassing 40% of global gross domestic product, this agreement is the mother of all trade deals. Yet over the last couple of decades so many tariff barriers have been whittled down such that other factors, for example exchange rates, can be more of a stimulus or impediment to trade.

We know that Canada’s auto parts and supply-managed agricultural industries are at risk from this deal. New Zealand, one of the instigators of the TPP, wants to sell its surplus industrial milk powder into our markets. And if they get a toehold into our supply managed systems, the US is chomping at the bit to dump its subsidized fluid milk onto our grocery counters, putting at least some of our dairy farmers out of business. Oh, and many US dairy producers use a nasty growth hormone which is banned in this country.

But, despite our health laws, we will have to allow American milk companies to sell their milk here because the TPP is really about investor power, about ensuring market access for investors and transnational corporations.

Twenty years ago the world rejected corporate globalization through something called MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment), a contract by which nations would surrender much of their domestic sovereignty to corporations. Now it sure looks like the MAI is back in sheep’s clothing.

tppNAFTA, the template for so many of these ‘free-trade’ deals, already allows international companies to sue governments if they feel their right to sell into a market is impeded. And the TPP will supplant NAFTA, adding even more parties to the deal and bringing sovereign national rules and regulations over the economy, environment and social policy to their lowest common denominator. This is the perfect business model for non-interventionist governments – those which believe that government should stay out of trying to regulate its way to a better future, as the current one does, leaving that role to the business community,.

Of course the devil will be in the TPP details, and that makes this deal a pig-in-a-poke. ‘Trust me’ to look after the interest of Canadians,’ is what the PM is saying. And if you listen to the folks in Quebec or Newfoundland, who have been burned by this government on previous trade concessions in the dairy and fisheries industries, that trust is a breach of faith.

Canada’s embrace of free trade over the last decade has coincided with the loss of 400,000 manufacturing jobs and led, in part, to Canada scoring a record trade deficit this year.

beer - canadian

Is there a really Canadian beer company left? Moosehead – that is a Canadian

Major Canadian entities like Inco, Alcan, Stelco, and our beer companies have been swallowed up by foreign conglomerates, and in some cases, as with Stelco, shut down to reduce competition for their international parents.

The theory of comparative advantage, that pillar of free trade economic logic, has allowed this government to regress Canada’s once balanced economy. We have almost become the hewers and drawers of natural resources, which we were at confederation. Without the resilience of a balanced economy we find ourselves at the mercy of the international commodity markets and their inherent booms and busts.

But perhaps the real reason the US has fallen in love with the TPP is China. Having surpassed the USA, China is now the largest economy on the planet, something which unnerves political nationalists stateside. So the TPP, which includes 11 nations, but not China, will help to contain the ‘waking dragon’ by drawing an economic curtain around it in the Pacific Ocean.

Given the cloud of secrecy surrounding this TPP deal, it is unclear how much of a role Canada played in its design and in negotiating its terms so as to protect our economy. Since it will replace NAFTA as it steamrolls its way forward, we may have no choice but to get on board. Still, why the rush and all the secrecy? Shouldn’t the public be given a chance to see and comment before we sign onto to something as awesome as this huge trade pact?

Tom Mulcair says he’d tear up the TPP if it endangers our supply management systems. Justin Trudeau, whose father established our supply management systems, promises to defend the farmers if elected.

Mr. Harper, who prides himself on having shut down the Wheat Board has no such affection for supply management, though it would be political suicide for him to say so, especially during an election campaign. So what about it, can we trust him?

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran as a Liberal against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. Rivers is no longer active with any political party.

Background links:

Niqab Baloney   Citizenship Process   

Toronto 18

Nenshi and the Niqab

French Language Debate    TPP Winner and Losers    TPP Dairy

TPP Negotiations    TPP Explainer    TPP Secrecy   MAI

The US Position    TPP Investment     More TPP Investment    Supply Management    Fisheries

More Fisheries      Export Deficit      Overnight Polls

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3 comments to The Week That Was in the federal election – and just what is the TPP going to mean to us – if anything?

  • John

    Ray, you say that the PM misleads the public on the Niqab and that is why the polls show the overwhelming majority of Canadians agree with is policy. But look what you just did yourself. “One of those wedgies is Mr. Harper’s promise to ban the ‘Niqab’….” No one is proposing to ban the niqab. As you well know, the PM (along with the vast majority of Canadians) do not want the niqab worn during the swearing in ceremony only. I think the reason most Canadians agree with this policy is that they understand exactly what the policy is and they aren’t fooled by people who try to make it out to be a niqab ban. Canadians want newcomers to make a small sacrifice to show they really want to be Canadian. |If the niqab is more important, that is fine. We’re not forcing anyone to become Canadian.

  • Ray Rivers

    Gary – Thanks for the comment. I made the same point in my article last week. I think there are two things at work here: 1. it has not been made clear in almost all of the media coverage that wearing the Niqab for the oath doesn’t mean the citizenship candidate hasn’t already properly revealed her identity; and 2. so many of us, me included disagree with the notion that a woman is obliged by her husband, or religion, or whatever, to cover her face in public for any reason.

    Finally, I wondered how long it would take – but I noticed this morning reports that former NL premier Danny Williams has gone even further, accusing Mr. Harper of ‘borderline racism’.

  • Gary

    And yet, the polls indicated the majority of Canadians, not just Quebecers who even stronger on these issues, support the PM on the niqab and de-citizensisng terrorists.