Election 2015: Pacific trade deal faces mixed reaction in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – A Nanaimo-area farmer is concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership between Canada and Pacific Rim countries.

A Nanaimo-area farmer is concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership between Canada and Pacific Rim countries.

The partnership is a free-trade deal – similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement – among the other 11 countries, including the U.S., Japan, Australia and Chile.

It has provisions to relax or even do away with tariffs that could affect a number of industries in Nanaimo, including forestry and agriculture.

Barbara Ebell, co-owner of Nanoose Edibles Organic Farm, said based on numbers from Statistics Canada, $5.6 billion per year of foreign food is delivered and sold on Vancouver Island.

“If you extrapolate that to what would happen, if not only was it coming from the States, which it mostly is now by probably 95 per cent, it’s going to come from any country who wishes to sell their food into Vancouver Island and for sure it’s going to be cheaper.

“So that means that the Vancouver Island farmer, who is a big-time landowner, is going to have no market,” said Ebell.

The agreement was discussed at an all-candidates’ meeting at Vancouver Island University Tuesday.

Mark MacDonald, Conservative candidate, said the partnership “is a tremendous deal” that was done by people looking after the country’s interests. We live in a global world and have to have access to these markets, he said.

Tim Tessier, Nanaimo-Ladysmith Liberal candidate, said his party encourages trade, but only when done in Canada’s best interests. A deal can’t be signed that saddles this generation with mistakes.

Paul Manly, Green Party candidate, expressed concern about investor-state sections of the deal. Manly said there are provisions that allow foreign corporations to sue the government if Canadian laws and policies affect profit.

If the deal is truly fair trade and good for Canada, Sheila Malcolmson, NDP candidate, said her party would support it. However, it was negotiated in secret and making decisions in the middle of a campaign is not right, nor transparent, she said.

Andre Sullivan, Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation board chairman, said the corporation is generally for global trade partnerships, but not all details of this partnership are known.

“We know at a high level that it opens up our exports to new markets with the downside of opening up our markets to new imports, but in general most trade agreements benefit the economy,” said Sullivan.

– with files from Greg Sakaki