Political protest held in Port Elgin
by Sandy Lindsay

September 23, 2015



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Political protest held in Port Elgin, Saugeen Shores

Placards for missing Aboriginal women

UNIFOR reps and missing Aboriginal women supporters gather at Ben Lobb's Campaign office

It started out with a march of support for the women of Saugeen First Nation in their 'Take back the Night' and ended up in Port Elgin as a loud vocal protest against Stephen Harper and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that is part of his agenda.

Bus loads of UNIFOR unionists, who have been staying at the UNIFOR (formerly CAW) Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, made their concerns known as they stood in front of Ben Lobb's campaign office in Port Elgin.  Lobb, who is the Conservative incumbent candidate for Huron-Bruce in the Federal Election, was not in the office at the time of the protest.

Many waved placards referring to the TPP and 'Secret Deals' along with concerns over the many missing aboriginal women and the government's stand to not establish a formal inquiry to look into it.

Although the TPP talks began in 2008, Canada and Mexico did not join in until three years ago. The United States, concerned about China's growing influence in the Pacific region, is pushing ahead to cement ties with several Asian countries.

The TPP is a proposed new free trade agreement that would involved 12 member countries - Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, The U.S. and Vietnam.

Canada has free trade deals with the U.S. and Mexico through NAFTA and also with Peru and Chile in South America and, of the remainder, three quarters of Canada's trade is with Japan.

According to union organizers, Canada's trade with Asia and Europe reflects a weak position in the global economy.  Canada exports less than it imports, and exports relay heavily on raw resources but imports are  expensive value-added products.  "Last year, Canada incurred a trade deficit off almost $10 billion with TPP participants - exporting $17 billion mostly in resources and importing $27 billion in manufactured goods.  If a trade deal does net damage to Canada's key industries, then it might be better to not be part of it [TPP]."

Unions are concerned that the TPP negotiations have, and are, taking place in secret and will result in several aspects damaging to Canada, including:

  • dismantling of the marketing boards for dairy and poultry

  • stronger intellectual and property rules that will result in higher drug prices

  • acceptance of investor-state dispute settlement where private companies can sue national governments for policy moves that affect profits

  • a general expansion of Canada's poor trade balance with Asia that will see reduced tariffs leading to more imports and leading to an ever larger trade deficit

  • several of the countries participating in TPP have poor records when it comes to democratic and human rights

Eliminating tariffs and trade restrictions on automotive imports from Japan and other Asian economies, will result in the auto trade deficit expanding even more say union workers.  The auto sector says that, in 2014, Canada had a $5 billion auto trade deficit with Japan and that that country imports virtually no vehicles from Canada or other countries.

If the TPP goes through, according to the unions, it will result in thousands of lost auto parts manufacturing jobs as there will be no restrictions on tariff-free parts coming in to North America and no limits on what percentage must be manufactured in North America as exists today.

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Protesters in Port Elgin

When a Federal election is called or the 'writ is dropped', the government of the day is not supposed to make any new policy decisions until a new government is elected.  However, according to sources, the Conservative government passed regulations before the election began that allows it to continue with TPP negotiations. 

Therefore, negotiators are apparently operating without democratic oversight and, according to protesters, "... may trade off Canadian interests at almost any cost prior to the election so that the deal is deemed a great economic achievement for the government ....", just prior to voting day.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015