What was the real agenda behind North America's overreaching security agreement? Market accessibility.
by Pat Van Horne
The national tour of a new documentary by filmmaker Paul Manly kicked off with a special Ottawa screening on October 1, 2009. You, Me and the SPP is not a fun-filled hour and a half, but is an important piece of a larger puzzle.
The film offers both a comprehensive and a historical look at an aggressive corporate agenda, the most recent expression of which has been the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP). The SPP was a direct result of the complicated world that followed the 9-11 attacks and the perceived need to increase security while preserving corporate accessibility to markets and resources.
The film was shot over the last two years and completed just as the SPP slipped quietly off the list of top priorities for its Canada-US-Mexico signatories. Manly interviewed a cavalcade of economists, politicians and activists, who have been dogging the SPP with demonstrations since it was created in secret in 2005, as an executive agreement in partnership with an elite corporate committee of 30 CEOs from the three countries. Analysts say the SPP may not be dead; it may only be sleeping and could wake up at any time with a new name but the same agenda.
Manly documents persistent opposition to the SPP, which was never scrutinized or ratified by legislators. Much of the film is talking heads dissecting the various impacts of the SPP - on the economy, the environment, culture, sovereignty, privacy - all the things that have been under threat for the last 20 years since the first Free Trade Agreement was signed with the US.
But isn't all a series of interviews. The most compelling footage in the film is material Canadians have seen before on TV news clips. Shot by Manly during an anti-SPP rally in Montebello, Quebec, in 2007, the filmmaker documented the confrontation between Communication Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) President Dave Coles and two rock-wielding provocateurs, who turned out to be undercover officers of the Quebec Provincial Police. When the impostors were wrestled to the ground, the film revealed that the phony protestors were wearing police-issue boots. It is interesting that Manly got the best footage, while the mainstream media concentrated on controlled news conferences and statements from inside the Montebello summit.
The low-budget production paints a clear picture of the need to continue opposing an agenda that takes many forms - individual free trade agreements with many countries, the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) and, more recently, Pathways to Prosperity. They are all swell-sounding smoke-screen covers for the same basic goal, to solidify corporate-centred profit and power over democratic institutions that otherwise stand in the way.
While Manly could be criticized for failing to present even one spokesperson in favour of the SPP, the film also documents his attempts to get interviews. He tried for 18 months but was shunned at every turn.
An interesting moment in You, Me and the SPP involved the strange case of Glenda Hutton, the retired elementary school teacher who found herself on the US no-fly list. The no-fly list is a key element of the 'security' part of the agenda and one that has been a not-so-funny joke for those who have turned out to be 'false-positives' in the effort to weed out traveling terrorists. While the viewer is pretty sure Hutton is not a terrorist, the film unfortunately does not clearly explain how she got on the list in the first place. Mistaken identity or a long ago minor drug bust at the border? We may never know.
Slight flaws and a limited budget aside, You Me and the SPP is a valuable tool in explaining and understanding what citizens are up against in a 21st century corporate world that exploits fear to gain control and profit.
Manly does, however, leave us with a plea to "manifest the positive" and oppose the SPP and its successor attempts to dominate and profit at the expense of the environment and our rights. The struggle, as they say, continues.
For more information on upcoming screenings and/or how to purchase a copy of the film, go to the You, Me and the SPP website (below).
Pat Van Horne is the United Steelworkers' Legislative Representative in Ottawa. She interviewed Paul Manly for Straight Goods News.