Public Values

Privatizing water services a possibility with CETA

Leaked documents show water services not exempt from Canadian-European Union trade agreement.

Moist: If European negotiators are prepared to protect those sectors, why not Canada?January 26, 2012: Leaked documents related to the ongoing Canada-European Union trade negotiations show that Canada and the provinces have failed to protect drinking water and wastewater services from trade rules that would encourage and lock in privatization, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Council of Canadians. Harper's message to the EU, say the organizations, is that Canada is "open for business" to big European water firms who see public water services as a barrier to their investment opportunities.

The documents, made public yesterday by the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC) and the Trade Justice Network, show Canada's initial services and investment offers to the EU in ongoing Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations. They list policy areas or sectors that are to be spared from liberalization, which can be understood as deregulation or re-regulation on market-based terms favourable to multinational investment. Water services are not on the list, which means they are automatically included in the deal.

  "This is a big gift to private water companies from the Harper government."

"Even European negotiators are asking for water to be excluded from CETA. This is a big gift to private water companies from the Harper government and perhaps some provinces that want more water privatization in our cities and towns and see this trade deal as a tool to make that happen," says Maude Barlow, national chairperson with the Council of Canadians.

"Canadians hold a great deal of trust in publicly owned, operated and delivered water and sanitation systems," says CUPE National President Paul Moist. "Water and other essential services like health care, public transit, postal services and energy are vital to our communities. If European negotiators are prepared to protect those sectors, why isn't Canada? We need to debate this deal right now."

CUPE and the Council of Canadians are asking, at the very least, that provincial governments correct their mistake by fully excluding drinking water and wastewater services from their Canada-EU trade offers. The organizations also urge the provinces to withhold their support for the CETA negotiations until the public and opposition parties have had a chance to study and make revisions to these offers and the broader Canada-EU agreement. There could be many other areas — for example, public transit, health care and education, among others — which should be protected, but which the provinces have not carved out of the CETA.

The leak is bound to embarrass the Prime Minister, who will be promoting the Canada-EU trade talks while in Davos this week at the World Economic Forum.

Related individuals, organizations and significant events
See this Briefing note for more details on the leaked documents.

Links and sources
  New leaked Canada-EU trade documents show Canada "open for business" for water privatization, say CUPE, Council of Canadians

Posted: February 02, 2012

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