MP decries 'Buy American' deal

By Contributor
February 26th, 2010

With Parliament prorogued, the Harper government has been busy wrapping up a last-minute and lop-sided deal with the U.S. on how to handle the ‘Buy American’ provisions in their 2009 stimulus legislation. With just a few days left before the bidding was closed on the $275-billionUS stimulus fund, 98 per cent of which was already committed, the deal was finally signed on Feb. 12.  With very little time for Canadian companies to bid on the few remaining contracts worth up to $5 billion, the deal did not even provide any guarantee or mechanism to enforce Canadian access to these funds.  In return, Canadian provinces and municipalities are obliged to provide U.S. companies access to infrastructure procurement projects, valued at $25 billion, until September 2011.

Another consequence of this deal is that we have agreed to let the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Government Procurement dictate forever how procurement and purchasing is to be handled by our provincial and municipal governments. 

For little more than a symbolic gesture on the part of the Americans and without any debate or a vote in the House of Commons, Stephen Harper is unilaterally giving up our sovereign right to give preference to local goods and suppliers on local infrastructure projects. In doing so, he is setting the precedent for further erosion of our sovereignty as provincial and municipal contracts are offered up to the European Union in an incentive to sign a free trade agreement with Canada.

Across the country infrastructure procurement projects have been effectively used by provincial and municipal governments to create jobs and stimulate sustainable economic development. Unlike B.C.’s Gordon Campbell who has one of the worst records when it comes protecting procurement rights, Manitoba and Nova Scotia NDP governments have taken some steps to protect certain sectors of their economies, as have some other provinces. 

With no Buy Canadian Act of our own similar to the Bill introduced by federal New Democrats in the House of Commons, our country will be deprived of a key economic tool to provide the same leverage that Americans and every other industrial economy have developed in order to ensure jobs are created and stay at home.

After selling out our softwood lumber and manufacturing sectors Harper is tying the hands of provincial and municipal governments so they can’t give preference to local businesses even though the US has found ways to exclude American policies from its own WTO commitments. Let us also not forget that we have made it almost impossible for our fruit and vegetable producers to compete with cheap subsidized American produce.

It’s difficult to imagine how any of this works in favour of our sovereignty, especially as we try to create jobs for Canadians in these difficult economic times.

In the 2006 Speech from the Throne, Stephen Harper promised that “significant international treaties will be submitted to votes in Parliament.” In other speeches he has promised transparent and accountable government.  What we have instead are broken promises, a padlocked Parliament, the HST and a brand new trade arrangement that was negotiated in secret.  Rest assured that New Democrats will be taking this government to serious task when the doors of Parliament are finally open to us once again on March 3.

Categories: Op/Ed


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