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Canada-EU Trade: Democracy Should Determine Fate of Trade Deal, Unifor says

TORONTO, Oct. 17, 2013 /CNW/ - Unifor National President Jerry Dias is calling on the Harper Conservatives to immediately release the text of the free trade agreement with the European Union and ensure the deal is put through a transparent and democratic review at the federal and provincial level, before being signed into law.

The union is particularly concerned about how the wide-ranging Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to Brussels to sign, will affect Canadian workers (especially in manufacturing), health costs as well as telecommunications policy and procurement.

"It's simply not okay to keep the Canadian public in the dark on this important economic accord," Dias said.

Dias urged all Canadian premiers to likewise embrace an open and transparent debate about the deal, with the release of the full text as a key component of that.

In a first for a trade accord, CETA will open up Canada's telecommunications sector to foreign companies (according to leaked negotiating documents).

This would make it extremely difficult for a future government to reverse the Harper Conservatives' recent reform allowing foreign multinationals to buy 100 per cent of telecommunications companies holding up to 10 per cent of the Canadian market and expand from there.

"Any attempt by the Conservatives to use CETA to lock in recent changes granting foreign multinationals majority ownership rights in telecommunications would be a brazen threat to democracy," said Dias.

"It would also be bad for Canadian culture, security and workers."

CETA is also expected to give companies based in the EU unobstructed access to public procurement by municipalities, utilities and other provincial agencies. This could significantly undermine Ontario's policy of sourcing transit vehicles within the province and other "buy local" initiatives.

A study by Unifor economist Jim Stanford for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that a CETA deal could cost the Canadian economy more than 150,000 jobs. Canada already has a massive trade imbalance with Europe, Stanford found, and a free trade deal would only make that worse.

Unifor represents more than 300,000 workers in every sector of the Canadian economy. The union was founded Labour Day weekend when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged at a convention in Toronto.