Saturday, April 02, 2016

A Modest Proposal

No, we're not going to be eating babies. Sheesh. What I had in mind was to switch the way our governments have saddled the country with globalized free trade deals. The way we've handled this so far is that the people we elect go out and sign deals in our name and tell us that we're way, way ahead thanks to their penmanship.

If you like that idea, here's what I would suggest you do. Get out a book of cheques, sign them in blank and mail them to me. Trust me, you'll be way, way ahead and some day you'll thank me. What, no?

Okay, here's a modest proposal. Let's stop signing blank cheques - accepting the authority of our government to enact trade deals without either consultation or the informed consent of the electorate, emphasis on "informed." If it's really such a goddamned great deal - show us, explain it to us, convince us. And, if you don't think you owe us that much, then come out and tell us by what right you can tie our hands, put us in the yoke of this deal or that for twenty to thirty years at a stretch.

Thirty years? You get 25 for first degree murder! How in hell do you have the faintest clue of what our country is going to be like in 10-years or 20, much less 30?  You don't, not a clue. No idea. It's sort of like giving a young, athletic guy a suit and telling him he'll have to wear it until he's 50. Trust me, there's almost no chance he'll squeeze into it that long even if it didn't make him look like a dork.

So, if you want to convince us you're not completely idiotic, let's put a cap on these deals. Say a 5-year term to be followed by renegotiation. At the very least that will allow us to hold you and your party accountable in the next election or two if you screw up - or screw us. No consultation, 5-years max. Anything more than that, you need our informed consent. As for 30-years, well there should be a blanket prohibition on that madness. And the side that's demanding a 30-year term, you had better figure out exactly what they've got in mind - and in store - for everyone else.


Lorne said...

I have been thinking along the same lines, Mound, about having our government explain why investor dispute settlement mechanisms are such a boon to ordinary Canadians. To my knowledge, no one in the MSM has raised such a question. And while we are at it, what about the extended protections for the pharmaceutical industry, etc.?

Toby said...

Mound, you are talking sense. Do you think any politician will pay attention?

Bill said...

Yes a modest proposal... and also a brilliant proposal.

If our government really really thinks this will be good for our citizens, our economy and our environment and they were totally transparent (have not seen this)on what is in the deal and after proper feedback (have not had this) - then I would feel a little better about this long term deal that has the potential to turn into a long term nightmare.

If the Liberals addressed the above and your caveats Mound, then we would all have a much better understanding of the agreement. Even then there should be contractural agreement clauses that at ongoing five year anniversaries of signing - Canada could freely opt out without penalty. As you say the longer the term of this trade agreement the greater the uncertainty of benefits and problems.

Any truly good trade deal should benefit all parties/nations, all citizens and our environment. If a deal is just structured to benefit global trade and corporations then we would be crazy to sign such a deal.

Hugh said...

Here's a link showing pending NAFTA ISDS claims against Canada, about $7.3 billion. Click on each one to see the amount.

The Mound of Sound said...

I don't know that we can responsibly plan anything 20-years out any longer. Ten years ago when I began this blog our best and brightest were forecasting climate change impacts for the end of this century that have already happened. These early onset environmental impacts are already affecting us and are having a devastating impact on areas far less fortunate than Canada. In some places, such as Syria and South Sudan, there are major security challenges. In other countries drought is hitting agricultural production. If the next ten years are as tumultuous as the past ten have been, where will we be in 2025?

When he was discussing pipelines, Trudeau said his government would be adhering to the "precautionary principle."

Why, given the measure of uncertainty, should we not apply it to more aspects of governance, particularly trade? Adam Smith, back in 1776 urged such caution in the affairs of commerce. I think he was onto something.

Here's an interesting paper that contrasts the approach to free trade and the precautionary principle in the EU versus the US.

The most important aspect of the precautionary principle is to place the burden of proof on the proponent as a prerequisite. If you say it's beneficial, prove it. If you say it's save, prove it. If you say 30 years is just fine, prove it. If you cannot prove your claims, then the matter cannot proceed and you have to go back and come up with something better, acceptable.

The Mound of Sound said...

Here's Adam Smith's prudent advice from two centuries before we devised globalized, neoliberal free trade:

“The interest of [businessmen] is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public ... The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ... ought never to be adopted, till after having been long and carefully examined ... with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men ... who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public”

Anonymous said...

Hey; Mound.
Is the photo of you?
The 'cool' seventies, Ey!

Hugh said...

When the government says things like "this deal will create jobs and add to Canada's GDP", we know automatically it's a bunch of B.S.

Hugh said...

That is a nice suit. $5.99 at Value Village.

the salamander said...

.. well said .. truly timely .. but realistically you could easily broaden the scope of your message ! We're just not getting transparency or accountability rrom our most senior 'public servants' ..

.. I recall something creamy & mealy spilling from a federal piece of shit MP and former Minister of Environment & former 'journalist' known as Peter Kent.. It was some vague evasive deflection defending a Harper reverse morman manouver and Kent assured us all that ”in the fulsomness of time' all Canadians would benefit blah blah woof woof ..

Kind of like hearing Tony Clement conflatulating how 'Cabinet Confidence' is/was neccesary.. and details would be released once the larceny or giveaway or selloff or sellout was ratified.. Canadians should keep in mind that at the height of Harper's Run, the 2nd most powerful politician in Canada was an unelected young political science student from U of Western Ontario.. and up there in the upper mist of the Harper Food Chain was one unelected Nigel Wright.. and a legal beagle evangelical claiming he owed Harper his last breath.. uh Arthur $750/hr Hamilton ..

The 'fulsomness of time' is revealing... non ? I believe our exalted ex PM splained this baloney as 'the Paramountcy' in one of his most vapid nation building utterences or conflatulations ..

Northern PoV said...

5 year time frames will not cut it. Investment cycles are longer than that. These folks need long term guarantees that they are protected from our sovereign rights. They will not sign 5 year deals.

A first step (you and a few others are doing yeoman's work in this regard) would be getting the media to use neutral language and ignore the marketing bling that comes with "Free Trade".

The polls should ask
"Are you in favour of surrendering Canadian sovereignty and strengthening the rights of foreign corporations?" along with showing the NAFTA ISDS claims info mentioned above....

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Hugh - enough of the GDP already. Yes, it's a big problem, one of a number of very big problems. I have written about it many, many times. You can search this blog and find those posts and they go back almost to the start ten years ago. However this post isn't a GDP post. It's not about growth or productivity. It's about trade agreements, how we have insufficient say in them and how they bind us in difficult, uncertain times. So, please, sometimes change the record. Please.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Sal - yes, I agree there's a need for much more transparency but I think the direct democracy/referendum tool I allude to has to be used sparingly when it matters most.

I've not written about it but have many times wondered about relative transparency. What is the most transparent government in history? Greece, perhaps? How much transparency can we realistically expect before we start tearing government down?

The Mound of Sound said...

NPoV - if a 5-year, renegotiable term won't satisfy investment cycles then what common ground is there short of rejecting out of hand these secret trade dispute resolution clauses? I think Canada is one of the few nations positioned to play hardball on this.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

With all of what is democratically at stake Mound with the TPP, I question the motives of our government even considering signing/ratifying it without thorough discussion with the Canadian people. Your suggestion of a 5yr renegotiable term is an excellent one.I do not think however that our government has any interest in sincerely involving and engaging Canadians in what the changes and the criterion should be in ratifying this deal. We have for too many years allowed our governments power that should be in the hands of Canadians. They have used this power to satisfy their own decision making.It always amazes me when I read your posts (and I do daily)how, with all the knowledge and experience you have that you are still a believer that political solutions can come from the people. That is a compliment by the way.I have a more cynical view. I think our government will be more concerned about pleasing the other countries included in this deal, particularly the US. They don't give a damn what Canadians think or want.They will make very superficial change and call it a great day for Canada. They will go ahead with this deal because they will be told by the US to go ahead with it. I do not see Trudeau having the guts to walk away from this deal. I have no idea how the liberals will twist and turn the thoughts in their individual minds to collectively sell out their country and its people by signing/ratifying this deal. My cynicism may come from not having the extent of knowledge you have. If that's the case, than I'll just keep hitting the books. For the present though, I do not have much trust that our government will do what is right for Canadians. I would love to be proved wrong.

Anonymous said...

Anyong said... LIBERALS ARE:

We are not against the rich. We are against using wealth to gain an unfair advantage.
We are not against corporations. We are against corporations governing us.
We are not against capitalism. We are against corruption in crony capitalism.
We are not against Banks. We are against fraudulent banking practices.
We are against legalized fraud in markets.
We are not against energy. We are against the pollution of our land, air and water.
We are not against democracy. We are against the sale of influence by our elected officials.
We are against Governments who are not transparent. We are against secret deals such as free trade.
We are against Governments who do not consider the countries people and culture in every decision made.
WE ARE AGAINST GOVERNMENTS WHO THINK BIG BUSINESS KNOWS BEST. When Free Trade is being considered ...TPP... we the people decide what is good for us. So far there isn't one that has helped the population only the Corporations.

Anonymous said...

Liberal voters might believe those things, but Liberal politicians work hand in glove with the treasonous corporations and the rich tax evaders, against the interests of the majority. Liberal, Tory, same old privileged, elitist story.

The Mound of Sound said...

Liberal, Tory, same old story. Said the person who believes he's still represented by the party of Tommy Douglas and David Lewis instead of the Blairified party of Layton/Mulcair. Your sanctimony is a bit misplaced.

Anonymous said...

Anyong said....the above posting by me is "What Liberals are supposed to Be". Damned if I see any of it around though. Now the Wishie Washies in Ottawa are heads down trying to figure out how they can circumnavigate Panama and the 300 Canadians participating in hiding their money. Oh my...Many Canadians are so forth with and pure while complaining about those Canadians whom do not work or those Canadians whom could not save enough for retirement while putting their children through University so THEY would not have bills after graduating.