The Harper Index

Deep integration – TILMA and SPP to bring in rules to let corporations challenge our laws

Conservatives quietly advance plans that could deregulate Canada and bring our energy under US control.

Stephen Harper and BC Premier Gordon Campbell are promoters of TILMAJuly 11, 2007: With US President George W. Bush travelling to Montebello, Quebec, Canada in August to meet Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderón of Mexico at the North American Leaders' Summit on August 20-21, presents this summer re-feature.

Under the slogan "deep integration," the Harper Conservatives are working quietly with conservative allies in the US and Mexico to challenge local and national regulations and bring energy supplies under US control.

Taking the work of the Liberals before them several steps further, the Conservatives are promoting trade deals that could make it possible for domestic corporations to challenge laws they don't like in other provinces through the Interprovincial Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA). At the same time, they are actively promoting the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP). The two are related, and each, according to critics, would have the effect of extending the provisions of deals like NAFTA in giving businesses the ability to contest laws they claim impede their ability to compete.

The SPP broke into the news when the House of Commons International Trade Committee was shut down in May because its chairman, Tory MP Leon Benoit, blocked discussion about it and stormed out of a committee meeting. Benoit was objecting to the testimony of Professor Gordon Laxer of the University of Alberta's Parkland Institute. Laxer told the committee the SPP identifies North American "energy security" as a priority, and that, "even though Canada has no plan to protect its own energy supplies, the accord would commit it to ensuring America's," according to a report by Harry Bruce in The Peterborough Examiner. "Thus, if Canada agreed to the integration of energy supplies across North America, Canadians might well be left 'to freeze in the dark'."

John Foster, principal researcher at the North-South Institute asked a conference on the subject "Are we in fact sleeping through a corporate coup d'état?" according to reporter Brian Adeba in Straight Goods.

According to the article, "Last year's creation of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) to enhance the work of the SPP will further undermine Canadian sovereignty, because it emphasizes placing Canada and the US under a single command and will facilitate greater American access to Canadian oil, Mr Foster said. The NACC was created to advise SPP leaders on competitiveness issues. Nine of its ten Canadian members are also members of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (formerly the Business Council on National Issues, chief advocates of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement).

"But just like the SPP, there's a lot of secrecy behind the NACC, Mr Foster said. He said when NACC officials met last fall in Banff, Alta, a leaked communication policy from the council advised officials not to talk to the media, and if they do, they must downplay the meeting by saying it was a gathering of non-governmental-organizations."

Associated with SPP is TILMA, which British Columbia's Liberal premier Gordon Campbell and Alberta's Conservative premier Ed Stelmach have already signed and which Stephen Harper and Trade Minister Maxime Bernier are promoting to other provinces. The SPP came to light because activists started to dig into TILMA, which came into effect on April 1 of this year. TILMA seems to have been a provincial intiative, signed by Ralph Klein and Gordon Campbell, but the federal Conservatives now are promoting it to other provinces."

According to the Council of Canadians, it "allows corporations and individuals to sue provincial governments for any provincial or municipal government measure that they feel 'restricts or impairs' their investment (ie their profits). Under TILMA, even measures designed to protect the environment and public health are vulnerable to attack from corporate lawsuits with compensation penalties as high as $5 million."

These aspects of the agreement are downplayed by government officials, who stress the deal's purported benefits in terms of interprovincial transportation, especially of energy and labour mobility. The deal's advocates have not pointed, however, to examples of any significant mobility barriers between the provinces.

SPP promotes the US "War on Terror" with its emphasis on hefty funding for security projects — $430 million was recently announced for such purposes by the Harper government. Recently, Sarnia, Ontario Mayor Mike Bradley attracted attention by saying his city would decline the money, saying he didn't see terrorism as much of a threat to city buses but that his city could use federal funding for other infrastructure. As the Sudbury Star said in an editorial, "Spending $160,000 on a consultant's report to tell us how to terror-proof Sarnia Transit would have been a colossal waste of money."

Opponents of deep integration could use the Sarnia case to show how these plans are changing Canada's priorities and bringing them in line with George W Bush's disproved crusade.

Related individuals, organizations and significant events
Bush and Harper Share Roots

Harper Conservative vs. Public Values Frame
  Deep integration / Bush agenda
  Labour mobility / Undemocratic corporate attacks on our laws
  Security / American control of Canadian energy stocks

Links and sources
  "Three Amigos" to meet in Montebello, Linda McQuaig, Straight Goods, July 11, 2007
  The Plan to Disappear Canada: 'Deep integration' comes out of shadows, Murray Dobbin, June 8, 2007
  Tracking the SPP: Activists fear Canada's corporate coup d'état, Brian Adeba, Straight Goods, April 9, 200
  Corporate Rights Deal to Make Us April Fools, Murray Dobbin, January 24, 2007
  Left out in the cold: North American Future pact secures energy for US but not for Canada, Gordon Laxer, May 1, 2007
  Buses in Sarnia not likely on terror hit lists, The Sudbury Star, June 14, 2007
  Bush Administration Fast-Tracks Formation of North American Union, Jerome R. Corsi, Human Events, July 11, 2006

Posted: June 15, 2007

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