Saturday, May 12, 2007

Spazzing out on the SPP

Leon Benoit's little hissy fit yesterday at the parliamentary hearings on SPP deep integration has already been deftly covered by Dave and 1337hax0r and The Jurist.

Chair of the Standing Committee on International Trade Leon Benoit attempted to silence an expert witness about the consequences of guaranteeing unlimited energy supplies to the U.S, lost the vote on allowing the witness to proceed, and so promptly adjourned the hearing and stomped out, followed by three other Cons.

Quel friggin surprise.

Here is how Con/Alliance/Reform MP Committee Chair Benoit opened the hearings on SPP deep integration on April 26, 2007 : (bold mine)

"Good morning, everyone.
We're here today pursuant to Standing Order 108(2). The House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade is undertaking a study examining the opportunities and challenges Canadian businesses face with respect to the Canada-U.S. relationship.

The committee is specifically interested in identifying and removing the obstacles that stand in the way of stronger economic ties with the U.S. and answering the question of what the Government of Canada can do to help Canadian businesses take better advantage of trade, investment, and business opportunities."

So you can see how invited witness Prof Gordon Laxer of the Parkland Institute explaining that we have no laws to protect ourselves against freezing in the dark should the US so demand might put a little crimp in his agenda.

The hearings continued without Benoit and I will be interested to see if the gnugovs credit and publish in Hansard what discussion ensued after the departure of his sorry ass. I'll let you know. (Only three committee members are required to be present in order to hear testimony.) For some unimaginable reason they are lagging about three meetings behind on publishing the SPP committee notes.

Happily, NDP MP Peter Julian is on the committee and provides transcripts from May1 and May3 here at Vive le Canada.

Here's a taste from one witness, Prof Michael Hart, Carleton University :

" We have to build a higher level of concern in Washington at the highest levels that the continued health and prosperity of the North American economy means that we must deal with the border differently. That means a willingness on our part to, for example, strengthen the perimeter around North America in order to deal with security issues that are uppermost in American minds: it should also be of concern to us. Similarly, we need to be prepared to sit down with the Americans and be good partners.

I think over the last 10 or so years we have not been as good a partner as we might have been, raising suspicion in Washington as to whether or not we would continue to be the kind of partner they're looking for. In the end, these are political choices. You make the political choices and you reap the results.

We have made a political choice that we wanted a more deeply integrated North American economy. We have benefited greatly from that, despite what some of the witnesses are saying. We must now decide whether we want to make that work, or do we want to put various kinds of obstacles in its way, including allowing the Americans to build up the security framework they're pursuing."

When you read all three days of testimony, you find a lot of that from the various witnesses with business interests. They worry that US concerns with border security will countermand their access to US markets. They feel the urgency to get Canada inside the North American fortress before the US security drawbridge goes up. To this end, they expect the rest of us to go along, to push or at least allow the Canadian government to appease the US in whatever the US wants : oil, ballistic missile umbrella, whatever it takes. They are not too keen to discuss the things that must be traded away to achieve this. It's a very narrow view, far too narrow to represent Canada. We cannot allow them to represent us.

Thank you, Peter Julian, for opening this up to public debate, and to Maud Barlow for your testimony on our behalf.

UPDATE : The real reason for Benoit's hissy fit? Dave nails it.
UPDATE 2 : Lib MP Mark Holland was at this meeting. A BCer in TO provides Holland's facebook account of the events.
UPDATE 3 : The committee voted 6 to 4 to include the rest of the nearly derailed testimony on the record. Next stop - the floor of the HoC and better media coverage. Finally.

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