Friday, June 22, 2007

Water truckin'

You may remember Michael Byers as the UBC International Law prof who asked prior to the last election why extraordinary rendition wasn't an election issue and who also red-flagged our Afghan detainee transfer deal in the national press over a whole freakin year ago.

Byers has a book out - "Intent for a Nation : What is Canada for?" - and The Tyee has an excerpt :
"In 2004, the Canadian actor Paul Gross starred in a made-for-TV drama entitled H2O. Gross plays Tom McLaughlin, the charismatic son of a murdered Canadian prime minister, who takes over Canada at the behest of a group of international financiers eager to sell our fresh water to an increasingly thirsty United States."
Did you see this movie? I hadn't so I looked it up at IMDb. Some of the user comments about the unlikelihood of the plot's basic premise were kind of sad. At the time this movie aired, the GATT agricultural provisions regarding water were two decades old, and NAFTA, including the dreaded Annex Tariff Item 22.01: water: all natural water other than sea water, whether or not clarified or purified, had already passed its tenth birthday. Five years before this movie was even a twinkle in CBC's eye, the NDP were standing on the floor of the HoC demanding a clarification on water sovereignty under NAFTA - and it was denied.
While conceding that Canada's legal position on control of her water is at the very least muddy, Byers warns against setting any bulk water trading precedents:
"A single act of trading water on a bulk basis would arguably transform the resource into a tradable good that was legally indistinguishable from softwood lumber, potash or oil, rendering subsequent attempts to prevent or limit further exports illegal. For this reason, it is imperative that Canada takes water off the free trade table, quickly and decisively -- now, before it's too late."
Well another attempt was made two weeks ago, this time in the form of a motion asking the Cons to request a clarification from Mexico and the US on their position on Canada's water, and it was again denied.

Byers' excerpt concludes:

"On water, as on so many other issues, our conciliatory, don't-rock-the-boat approach to Canada-U.S. relations has failed. Unless we stand up for our own interests, Canadian fresh water could soon be irrigating crops, watering golf courses and filling backyard swimming pools in the south western United States.

It's time to dissuade Americans of the notion that we're going to rescue them from the consequences of their short-sighted, profligate ways by allowing them to mess with our environment, too. It's time to make it absolutely clear that bulk water exports are not covered by NAFTA."

In the meantime someone please let me know how that H2O movie turned out.
Tyee link from Jennifer at Runesmith's Canadian Content

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Holding the Bully's Coat"

From the introductory essay of Linda McQuaig's "Holding the Bully's Coat", an examination of Canada's complicity in and subservience to the American empire :
"Although it received almost no attention in the Canadian media, the appointment of Gen.Bantz Craddock as NATO’s top military commander in December 2006 had a significance for Canadians. Craddock had been in charge of the U.S.’s notorious Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, where hundreds of suspected terrorists have been stripped of their most basic human rights in defiance of international law.
His appointment as NATO’s military chief meant that Canadian troops serving in the NATO mission in Afghanistan were being brought under the ultimate command of a U.S. general deeply connected to the worst aspects of American foreign policy carried out in the name of defeating "terror."
In fact, there has been a significant shift in how Canada operates in the world, as we’ve moved from being a nation that has championed internationalism, the United Nations and UN peacekeeping to being a key prop to an aggressive U.S. administration operating outside the constraints of international law."
The rest of McQuaig's essay can be read at the excellent Canadian monthly ColdType.
Offering free subscription in a downloadable pdf format, The ColdType Reader has attracted and published such writers as George Monbiot, Greg Palast, Chris Hedges, Robert Fisk, Robert Jenson, Norman Solomon, ... and Hugo Chavez.
Well, go on then. Why are you still here?
UPDATE : Oh good lord. Catnip links to an Independent article on Craddock's old Gitmo stomping grounds from July of last year.
In a review of the military's own documents, a Seton Hall University study discovered that :"Only 8 per cent of prisoners are accused of fighting for a terrorist group, and that 86 per cent were captured by the Northern Alliance or Pakistani authorities "at a time when the US offered large bounties for the capture of suspected terrorists. "

Monday, June 11, 2007

Business Without Borders

Atlantica Conference 2007 :

June 14-16, 2007

Yo! Atlanticans! Could you be any more ass?

From the Media Page of AIMS - Atlantic Institute of Market Study, a sponsor of Atlantica 2007 :

"It is a shame that ideological blindness of the usual suspects - unions, rabid ultranationalists like the Council of Canadians, radical feminists, and other fellow-traveling leftist flat-earthers got most of the media attention focused on the "Reaching Atlantica: Business without Boundaries," conference hosted in Saint John last weekend by the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce, bringing together business leaders, trade experts and scholars to discuss a strategy for creating an International Northeast Economic Region (AINER) - a cross-border economic zone encompassing the northeast corner of North America.

"Atlantica" broadly encompasses the Atlantic Provinces, eastern Quebec, the northern tier of New England states, and northern New York state, all of which share various common characteristics: similar demographics, social diversity and migration, a shared history, and interrelated transportation issues, but AIMS argues that trade restrictions imposed by an international border running through the heart of Atlantica hobbles the region's prosperity.

Unfortunately, the unions, nationalists, protectionists and knee-jerk America-haters, as usual, just don't get it that before you can slice an economic pie equitably, first you have to secure the pie, which requires trade and commerce, preferably without a lot of bureaucratic obstacles constipating the process.

If the vision of Atlantica could be realized, it would be a wonderful facilitator toward restoring Atlantic Canada's heritage as a thriving centre of international trade, but even better would be to integrate all of Canada and the U.S. inside one big continental economic and security zone."

"Integrate all of Canada and the U.S. inside one big continental economic security zone"?
See, I'm guessing right about there is where you lost those flat-earthers.

Interesting group of panellists and speakers you have this time : Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Rodney MacDonald, Premier of Nova Scotia; Stephen Blank, Director of the North American Forum on Integration; Harold Foster, Consul General of the USA; Jim Quigley, VP at the Bank of Montreal; Mike Duffy; and a whole load of energy CEOs for some reason, but....Mike Duffy? Scott Sinclair from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives will presumably be there dissenting.

Besides AIMS, the other big fluffer for Atlantica is the Atlantic Provinces Chamber of Commerce.

Yo ! Chamber! How did you come to pick Jonathan Daniels, the American CEO of Eastern Maine Development Corporation, as your next Chair for the Atlantic Provinces Chamber of Commerce? Huh? You don't see anything up with him being the head of a Canadian Chamber of Commerce?

And then there's all the whining about minimum wage and gov regs and unions and ....there go the feminists and the ultranationals and the unions. You just lost 'em. In fact right there is where you alienated anyone who hasn't crawled up the asshole of deep integration and fallen asleep.

Stop Atlantica! - Atlantic Canadians' Declaration Against Atlantica

Saturday, June 9, 2007

"We're the Indians now." **

"The Plan to Disappear Canada" in yesterday's Tyee outlines ten recent developments in deep integration that have received media coverage.

As author Murray Dobbin points out : it's good that our media is finally giving it some tentative attention but it's bad that it's taken them so long to notice that The Big Idea is already well underway.

Several people have emailed it to me along with their comments, which mostly run to the "those fucking Americans" variety, and it's this idea that deep integration is someone else's fault that I'd like to address here. Specifically I'd like to hear a lot more about complicity from certain "fucking Canadians".

Mulroney gave us the 1989 Free Trade Agreement, Chretien gave us NAFTA, Paul Martin the Security and Prosperity Partnership, and Harper - Harper's knees are covered in callouses and his lower jaw has gone numb.

In their April 2004 position paper "New Frontiers - North American Security and Prosperity Initiative", the Canadian Council of Chief Executives bragged :

"The Council was the private sector leader in the development and promotion of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement during the 1980s and of the subsequent trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement. North American economic integration is now well advanced and irreversible."

Canadians all.
The 2005 Independent Task Force on the Future of North America, also a Canadian initiative, included :

  • John Manley, Task Force Canada Chair, former Deputy Prime Minister and ex-Finance Minister
  • Tom D'Aquino, Chief Exec of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives
  • Tom Axworthy*, former Chief of Staff to Trudeau
  • Jim Dinning, former Alberta Finance Minister, lost to Stelmach in leadership bid
  • Wendy Dobson, Pres. C.D. Howe Institute, Ass Deputy Minister of Finance of Canada
  • Pierre-Marc Johnson, former Quebec Premier
  • Michael Wilson, former Canada Finance Minister, ex-Minister of International Trade, and Canadian Ambassador to the U.S.

who, along with their US and Mexican counterparts, variously advocated and signed off on :

  • a North American brand name, "portraying NA as a club of privileged members"
  • a North American security perimeter - "Security issues trump all other issues."
  • an educational project to teach "a shared NA identity in schools"
  • a North American passport.
  • a feasibility study on North American currency union.
  • an integrated NA electrical grid
  • a NA "resource pact allowing greater trade and investment in non-renewable resources, such as oil, gas, and fresh water"
  • the complaint that "Governance has not kept pace with economic realities and is preventing further integration."

(*Tom Axworthy appended a dissenting view, disagreeing with creating one security perimeter and also with moving bulk water exports and cultural protections from national to NA jurisdiction.)
Plus Smart Borders and the Smart Regulations harmonization with US regs and the Fire Sale of Canadian companies.

So please, let's admit that Canadian corporations and think tanks and politicians have more than met "those effing Americans" half-way here. However horrified we may be at the idea of hitching our wagon to the stars and stripes of the war-mongering imperialistic plutocracy to the south, let's at least admit it's Canadians who are selling off our wagon.

**Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

SPP, not just for cows anymore

Robert Pastor : "It's time for Canada to take the lead to propose rule-based institutions that permit cows to roam across borders and people to declare: I am not just a Canadian, a Mexican, or a U.S. citizen; I am also a North American."

Pastor, author of Toward a North American Community, director of the North American Forum on Integration, and tireless cheerleader for "a North American consciousness", is at the University of Ottawa today, plumping for letting the little people in on his pet cow-freeing project :

Mr. Pastor said the SPP summit at Montebello this August "offers an opportunity for the leaders to open the process, to invite in more civil society groups," including academics, environmentalists, unions, the media and state and provincial legislators."

Unlike Ron Covais and his co-conspirators in the North American Competitiveness Council who advocate for "integration by stealth", Pastor says : "What we need is something more bold."

Well, exactly.
Pastor was quite bold himself when he spoke to the Canadian Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade in Feb 2002 on implementation of a common currency :
There are three options for us. Option one is de facto dollarization. That is to say, no government makes a decision, and increasingly Canada and Mexico use the U.S. dollar.
The number two option is de jure dollarization. Three governments all sit down and they decide the dollar makes sense: let's just use a single currency.
The third option is a unified currency. Herbert Grubel has proposed this idea of the amero.
I think it's in the long-term interest of the United States to propose or to discuss a scheme in which all three countries feel there is space for them to define a portion of this larger entity of an amero system, not a dollar system.
Some of the FAIT MPs promptly widdled on the carpet in their gratitude and excitement.

See how much better it is to be open and transparent and let "state and provincial legislators" "feel there is a space for them" in the decision-making?

Actually, the mewling sychophantic behavior of the MPs aside, I heartily advocate Pastor's strategy.

Pastor promotes the SPP as NAFTA-Plus.
NAFTA overrides Canadian law for the benefit of corporations to which it affords the rights and freedoms previously reserved for people. It allows quisling business groups like the Canadian Council of Chief Executives an increasingly large say in public policy issues while excluding the public. It advocates the deregulation and privatization of hard-won public services like health and education, promotes intellectual property rights of corporations over the needs of consumers, nullifies control over foreign investment, and guts protection for workers, stakeholders, and the environment.

In 1993, Canadians reacted to the wholesale promotion of Mulroney's corporate free trade agenda by throwing him out on his ass and reducing the Cons to two seats in the House.
So let's hope the Cons listen to Pastor today and Canada is provided with the opportunity to hear them defend this NAFTA-Plus in the House. And the sooner the better.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Water wars

No, not with the US ; apparently we're still duking this one out with the Cons.

You remember those International Trade Committee hearings last month on Canada's water and energy security under NAFTA and the SPP? The one in which chairperson Leon Benoit stomped out with the three other Con members because he didn't like Prof. Gordon Laxer's testimony on just how vulnerable Canada is?
Yes? Then you'll remember how the rest of the committee continued to do their job.
Today the following motion was brought from that Int Trade Committee to the House of Commons for debate :
"Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), and the motion adopted by the Committee on Tuesday, May 15, 2007 your Committee recommends:

Whereas Canada’s water resources must be protected;Whereas NAFTA covers all services and all goods, except those that are expressly excluded and water is not excluded;

Whereas this situation puts the provincial and federal laws concerning the protection of water including the prohibition of bulk water exports at risk;

Whereas a simple agreement by exchange of letters among the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico specifying that water is not covered by NAFTA must be respected by international tribunals as if it were an integral part of NAFTA;

That the Standing Committee recommend that the government quickly begin talks with its American and Mexican counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA."

Yes! Thank you Bloc and NDP committee members, and particularly NDP Trade critic Peter Julian who has worked so hard to expose the whole SPP betrayal in parliament.

The Con members on the committee dissented of course.And I'm sure, given their previous behavior on the committee and the outing of the Con's dirty tricks manual on how to shut down committees on subjects they don't like, you're not exactly reeling with surprise about it.

Down at the bottom :
"Dissenting opinion from the Conservative Party
The Government members of the Standing Committee on International Trade, for reasons previously stated by our members which appear in the evidence, [snip], choose to dissent respectfully from the Ninth Report."

Dissent away, ReformACons! Da motherfuckin motion is in da House!

SATURDAY UPDATE: From the Ottawa Citizen :"A motion to open NAFTA talks to make sure bulk-water exports are excluded from the deal sparked an acrimonious three-hour debate in the House yesterday, with all three Opposition parties lined up against the Tories.

The Tories say a 1993 letter signed by the three governments specifically says "water in its natural state" is exempt from the provisions of NAFTA.
But water will not be considered to be "in its natural state" once it has been loaded into a pipeline, or onto a tanker, critics fear.

NDP MP Peter Julian says that in 1998, California-based Sun Belt Water Inc. launched a $10.5-billion lawsuit under NAFTA against British Columbia when a provincial ban scuttled its plans to ship water by tanker to the U.S. (The case is still pending.)

"As a foreign investor, all you need to do is apply for a permit. You'll either get to export water, or you can sue for compensation, which taxpayers will have to pay. Either way, the investor wins, and Canada loses."

Water is protected not only by the 1993 NAFTA letter, but also by a federal-provincial pact and an amendment to the Canada-U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty, which protects the Great Lakes and other shared waters, he [Ted Menzies, Con from the Int Trade committee] argues.

But the Council of Canadians, an Ottawa-based advocacy group, says the U.S. never signed that amendment and notes that it doesn't cover water sources that are not shared with the U.S."

The quisling Cons are terrified to ask the fucking question : Under NAFTA, does Canada control her own water, or, as Peter Julian puts it, is it a choice between 1)exporting water or 2)paying compensation to each and every foreign company who applies for a permit to do so.

May 31 Hansard account of debate between all parties in the House..