TORONTO, Jan. 25, 2016 /CNW/ - The federal government's decision to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership next week is disappointing, but will give Canada a chance to fully debate a trade deal hastily brought in by the former Conservative government during the federal election, Unifor says.
"This deal was bad for Canada then, and it's bad for Canada now," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. "The Harper government negotiated and signed this deal in secret. Perhaps now we can have the public debate needed to make all Canadians aware of the risks posed by the TPP."
Liberal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland announced today that Canada will sign the TPP next week at a meeting in New Zealand, characterizing the signing as a formality required before the deal can be put before Parliament for debate.
Unifor will be active in that debate, and has several concerns about the TPP and its impact on Canada. A Unifor study last fall calculated that weakened regional content rules in the TPP will ultimately threaten 20,000 well-paying jobs in Canada's auto sector alone.
"The TPP will allow vehicles and parts mostly made in non-TPP countries such as China and others to have unfettered access to North American markets," Dias said.
"That is not acceptable. We need an honest, evidence-based look at the deal, with full input from Canadians, to determine if it helps or hurts our economy."
Dias also pointed to provisions of the TPP that would make it easier for companies from TPP countries to bring in potentially unlimited numbers of temporary foreign workers without having to worry about proper certifications here or wage floors established for other temporary foreign workers.
This change comes on top of long-standing concerns with the TFW program expressed by Unifor, including that temporary foreign workers are blocked from becoming full citizens.
"Any worker coming to Canada for a job should have the right to apply for full citizenship," Dias said. "If they are good enough to work here, they are good enough to become citizens. The TPP, however, will further entrench all the worst aspects of the temporary foreign worker program."
Unifor has also expressed concern about other aspects of the TPP, including the impact of tighter patent laws on drug prices, its anti-democratic investor-state dispute mechanisms, and major concessions on dairy and poultry marketing boards.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers, including 40,000 in the auto sector. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.