Streamlining the road to ruin

Linda Leon Open letter to MP Ryan Leef: In November you stood up in the House of Commons to ask: "Can the minister please tell the House what the government is doing to further streamline regulatory processes in the North?" China has "streamlined" regula

Open letter to MP Ryan Leef:

In November you stood up in the House of Commons to ask: “Can the minister please tell the House what the government is doing to further streamline regulatory processes in the North?”

China has “streamlined” regulatory processes. That is why so many western businesses have factories there. They don’t have to worry about awkward regulations such as workers’ rights, human rights or the environment.

In China, cancer deaths from pollution are rampant while children die from lead poisoning. Traditional neighbourhoods, called hutongs, are being torn down. They are replaced by poorly constructed, frequently uninhabitable highrises. The land, the water and the air are all poisoned. This is the cost of China’s prosperity.

The subject of this letter is the China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act and your comments in a recent letter to your constituents.

I agree, as you say, that “Foreign trade and investment is an important part of Canada’s national and international economic policy.” But we shouldn’t be signing treaties that can result in harm to our environment, health, economy, sovereignty and democracy.

While it is true China has the financial resources to help develop our businesses, they will also be acquiring control over our natural resources.

It isn’t likely that smaller Canadian businesses investing in China will benefit as much. Relationships are critical to success in China, even for the Chinese. That is why the Chinese families of high-ranking government officials are obscenely rich. Foreigners, lacking relationships, frequently find themselves on the fuzzy end of the lollipop with their Chinese business partners. This treaty isn’t likely to change that.

State-owned Chinese corporations have the financial clout necessary to pursue arbitration of disputes at tribunals. Their private Canadian counterparts do not.

You stated that “The Canada-China FIPA is very similar to the other FIPAs that Canada is a party to. It contains all of the core substantive obligations that are standard in our other FIPAs.” In the 14 other treaties we are party to, the interests of corporations are taking precedence over sovereign rights and the interests of citizens.

“This reflects our government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.” There are verifiable examples that demonstrate how untrue this statement is, but far too numerous to list in this short letter. However; I’m committed to writing 30 more letters before the next election.

The Canada-China trade treaty was signed on Sept. 9 in Russia. It wasn’t tabled until the end of September. It was never presented for full review by the House of Commons. That the government failed to open up the treaty for debate, or that the opposition parties failed to take advantage of opposition days to do so; is irrelevant. Canadians were not informed or consulted.

While the treaty has a 15-year minimum term; there is a one year’s notice to terminate requirement. All investments in existence at the time of termination are locked into the terms of the treaty for an additional 15 years. That adds up to 31 years, Ryan.

Your letter stated: “Our government is committed to ensuring that Canadian values are held to the highest standard.” Whose values are you talking about? The values that I grew up with and cherish are not the values reflected by the current Conservative government.

“The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act does not offer circumvention of environmental protocols and safeguards. It does not circumvent our federal labour laws.”

Stephen Harper once bragged to a group of American conservatives: “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it.” The China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act will break the back of First Nations’ territorial claims. It will override municipal rights and provincial/territorial rights.

It will set in stone recent policies that weaken workers’ rights and ensure that environmental safeguards, recently “streamlined,” cannot be reintroduced by a more enlightened government. It will preserve Mr. Harper’s destructive legacy.

The new Omnibus Budget Bill C-45 contains more regulatory “streamlining.”

Strategically, the prime minister will want to wait until it is passed before he ratifies this trade treaty with China.

In Nanjing, an avenue was lined with magnificent plane trees over 400 years old. Chinese citizens protested the plan to widen the street as a preparation for the Olympics. In the middle of the night, the government moved in. And in the morning, the citizens of Nanjing found their beloved trees gone.

Will we wake up one morning to discover a Canada that none of us recognize?

May you walk on the high road.

Linda Leon is a Whitehorse freelance writer. This is the 18th letter in this series.