|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on June 15, 2012 at 5:40 PM|
On Monday June 11, representatives from the Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter, the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and CCEDNet (Canadian Community Economic Development) Manitoba met with Peter Bjornson (the Minister for Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade), to discuss CETA. The Minister admitted to sleepless nights regarding his concerns about this trade deal. Despite his apprehension, he was unable to answer our questions.
Bjornson explained that Manitoba - along with every other province and territory - chose to be part of the negotiations, in an effort to protect our interests and fight for the best possible deal for Manitobans. To be permitted at the negotiating table, the province had to sign a confidentiality agreement with the federal government. This means that our elected representatives cannot tell us what they are negotiating on our behalf. If they chose to refuse a confidentiality agreement, Manitoba would have no presence and no say in what the federal government decided to do with our resources, public services and crown corporations.
Earlier this year, the Winnipeg chapter sent a letter to the Minister and to the Premier asking them to keep Manitoba out of CETA. That letter received a reply (link to PDF) from Minister Bjornson and we duly responded with very specific questions and a request for clarification. Shortly afterward, the Minister invited us to meet in person to discuss our concerns.
At the meeting, our questions were repeatedly met with the same frustrated response - that because of the confidentiality agreement, Minister Bjornson could not answer us. What kind of democracy is it that allows one level of government to muzzle another, and refuses to make public the terms of a deal that with effect us all?
This isn’t the Manitoba Govenment’s trade deal and they have expressed a lot of the same concerns that we have. The Minister and government are unable to do more than flag concerns, ask the federal government to respect Manitoba’s position, and try to ensure that there are provisions to protect our provincial governments’ ability to govern. They can’t risk saying or doing anything that might be seen as a breach of confidentiality. Manitoba is dependent on federal money in the form of transfer payments and most importantly right now, flood funding. Our provincial government can’t say that Manitoba is being held hostage. We can.
Please contact your MLA, talk to them about your concerns and tell our provincial government that you will support them pulling out of CETA.