Canada needs to make more use of direct programming with target countries (nearly 80 per cent of official aid went to foreign agencies in 2013, often on a sole-sourced basis). And more should be done to connect Canadian expertise to multilateral development banks and international humanitarian institutions.
By design, free trade agreements tear down the protectionist walls propping up status quo producers. However, even those producers -- at least those who reform, will also find a newfound ability to thrive given increased access to markets with tens of millions, or hundreds of millions, of potential new customers. All of this benefits consumers, most obviously when expensive tariffs on their choices, from Korean cars to Canadian beef, are eliminated.
When concluded, the Canada-Japan EPA would create a year-on-year multi-billion-dollar gain for the Canadian economy. A joint study by Canada and Japan has estimated the annual boost to Canada's gross domestic product from an EPA would be between $3.9 billion and $9.3 billion, while the gains for Japan's economy are estimated to be between $4.5 billion and $5.1 billion.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government would support the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) -- with conditions. The province should be compensated by the federal government, said the Premier, for an expected nine-figure increase in drug costs, as well as the effect of subsidized European cheese imports on local dairy farmers and possible hardship at Ontario wineries. Think about that for a second. The feds will hand money over to Ontario, who will in turn hand much of it over to pharmaceutical giants.
Should the "right" of a foreign corporation to make a profit trump governments' attempts to create local jobs, improve environmental regulations or establish laws that raise royalty rates? Most Canadians would say no. But that's what the Conservative government is pushing poor countries to accept if they want Canadian investment.
It's time that governments stop signing trade and investment pacts that put the rights of corporations above the rights of communities and the environment. My right to clean water, clean air, and a healthy planet for my family and community has to come before Lone Pine's right to mine and profit... doesn't it?
Corporate empowerment deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the as yet unratified Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA), a bilateral agreement with China, empower corporations to the extent that government legislation becomes subordinated to corporate profits. There are ways to combat this, but it will not be easy.
Whenever Canadians cross the border, it is inevitable they will find cheaper goods in the United States. There is a reason that helps explain part of the price differences: $3.6 billion in customs tariffs. All consumers would benefit from more competition and an end to anti-consumer tariffs. But more importantly, low-income Canadians would benefit the most.
On December 7, Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved the first two complete takeovers of Canadian-owned energy firms by foreign state-owned companies in our country's history. The Prime Minister used sleight of hand to trick Canadians into thinking these were "exceptional" cases, to be repeated only cautiously in the future. He appeared to close the door to ownership of the tar sands by companies controlled by foreign governments. But he didn't close it at all. He left it wide open and signaled to China, Malaysia and other countries that Canada's strategic energy resources were entirely for sale, not just to the highest bidder but to any bidder at all.
Because countries often have differing political and economic systems, agreements are needed to protect those invested in trade. Canada has signed numerous deals. Treaties, agreements and organizations to help settle disputes may be necessary, but they often favour the interests of business over citizens.
Last week, a casualty of China's unfair treatment of foreign investors spoke privately about the new trade deal signed between Ottawa and Beijing. Ottawa capitulated to China on everything. The deal, using a hockey metaphor, allows only a select few to play on Team Canada on a small patch of ice in China and to be fouled, without remedies or referees.
Despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent announcements of trade talks with various Asian countries, joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a more important strategic victory for Canada. Bargaining alongside the United States, Canada can get concessions from other countries it couldn't get alone. And as a TPP member, Canada can better safeguard its relationship and hard-won market access to the United States than if it was excluded.
As a Liberal candidate during the 2011 federal election, many people insisted that I take a firm stand against Alberta's oil sands. I simply wouldn't do that. I urged voters to think about what they were asking me to do. Why were people ready to insist on such a radical and destructive position when they had very few facts at their disposal?