The Green Party panned the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a bad deal for Canada and for Canadian voters.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May was in Nanaimo on Tuesday for a press conference criticizing the 12-nation free-trade agreement. She was joined not only by local Green candidate Paul Manly, but also by James Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party of New Zealand, via teleconference.
May accused the federal government of “undermining Canadian interests during the election” by signing the deal last week. The Green Party takes issue, particularly, with provisions in trade agreements that allow corporations to sue for loss of revenue due to government legislation – environmental regulations, for example.
She noted that one of the TPP partner nations is Malaysia, which owns Petronas, the company central to B.C.’s liquefied natural gas ambitions.
“So if a future British Columbia provincial government comes to its senses and realizes we don’t want to have our economy based on fracking and changes the rules for this Malaysia state-owned enterprise, for the first time, if TPP goes through, Malaysia would have the right to sue the government of Canada over changes we made to protect the B.C. government,” May said.
Manly said last week’s trade deal could hamper progress on climate action at a time when countries are preparing for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this fall.
“We could all go to Paris and come out with a great agreement, singing Kumbaya, and then show up in our home countries and find out that we’re going to be sued by corporations because we want to stop burning thermal coal or slowing down expansion of fossil fuel use,” Manly said.
Shaw had similar concerns about the dispute settlement mechanisms within the agreement, and added that the deal doesn’t go far enough with its environmental, labour and human rights standards.
Both Green parties are also concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s impact on pharmaceutical costs. New Zealand has a single-buyer system, Pharmac, and Shaw said there’s real concern medicine will become more expensive because of changes to patent law that could keep patent disputes tied up in the court system for years.
“It’s going to cost the provinces extra, it’s going to cost private insurers extra and it’s going to cost individual Canadians extra…” said Manly. “This agreement undercuts that ability to provide a Pharmacare plan and save money because of extension of patents.”
With the New Democratic Party also campaigning against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Greens were asked to differentiate their party’s stance. May criticized the NDP for voting for trade deals with Korea and Jordan.
“We are consistent,” said May. “We would never support an investor-state agreement. We would never support it because every single one reduces Canada’s sovereignty. It is absolutely anti-democratic.”