Good morning. My name is Craig Yeo, and I am a citizen presenter. I am also a member of the Council of Canadians and a local advocacy group, Alternatives North. I am generally presenting their positions, but I am also appearing as a citizen on my own behalf.
I have filed a brief, which contains some detailed information or presentations of position, largely on the democratic process. I had thought that I would simply read that into the record, but I thought about it overnight. I thought that I am appearing here as a human being, and this may be a little gut level, but I'd like to simply make some remarks on why I'm so concerned about this issue, and that's largely the democratic process.
When I look at governments, as a citizen I think that the role of government is, among other things, to protect the weak from the mighty and to provide the basic services that are necessary for people to prosper, such as clean water and health and democratic rights.
I am always flabbergasted when I look at these agreements and see that the government, in my opinion, has negotiated away its right to preserve and safeguard these things. In many ways, Canada has been very successful in doing these things over the years. We have good pension plans and we have developed some good environmental protections and public health care and other things.
As the neoliberal agenda and the transnationalization of corporations have progressed, as I see it, there's been some concern at the corporate level about this, because these things cost money: if you can't dump mercury into the French or Wabigoon river system anymore, it's going to cost you more money to be in business.
That's what corporations do. It's not their fault; that's their job, and the job of governments is to protect the commons against those things where it's reasonable. As I say, Canada has done these things fairly successfully in the past.
When corporations reached this point in the last 20 or 30 years, they wondered how they were going to get around this and how they were going to control these impacts on their profitability. Obviously you can't run a law through the legislature, in the fresh air of the day, saying that if the government does anything like increasing employee contributions to pension premiums or health care programs, then they're going to have to pay a corporation for the money they lost. Even in a non-vigilant democracy, that doesn't pass the good smell test.
How do you get around this? You get governments elected that share a corporate agenda, and then you give them a mandate to go behind closed doors and negotiate agreements without public review, without openness of negotiations, that are signed even before the details of the agreements are made known, and then run through the public process.
I do applaud the Liberal government for taking these on the road and bringing some light and air into this process, but still what has resulted in these cases is agreements that are not subject to review by the courts. The governments have given away their ability to maintain their supremacy under the Constitution to pass progressive legislation and not be penalized for it down the road.
As Courtney Howard mentioned, Lone Pine Resources is a primary example. The Government of Quebec is concerned about fracking. They didn't ban it, but they want to take a look at it. This is affecting the profitability of the corporation.
I'm very dismayed that governments would do such things, and it's not just the current government. They have parcelled out our democratic rights for decades into the future and handcuffed the ability of governments to take progressive measures for the prosperity, the well-being, and the rights of their citizens.
I know that the Conservative members of the committee are probably much in favour of this agreement, and then there's the Liberal doctrine that these agreements will go ahead. I don't have much confidence that this is going to be changed.
Even in Europe, as we're seeing with CETA, one of the primary kickbacks and the reason they're considering addenda and rewriting some sections of CETA is they just can't get the investor state dispute settlement provisions past the electorate there. People have come out in legions, unlike Canada, to condemn them.
I do condemn them. I ask you to please safeguard the supremacy of my democracy and your ability to legislate and exert authority for the well-being of the citizenry by returning a recommendation that the ISDS provisions are unacceptable and should be reviewed.