IVP Maloney: Canada trade deal is bad for workers
LATVIAN CEOS ARE surely giddy at the recent parliamentary vote in favour of CETA — the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement — between Canada and the European Union. Latvia is the first EU member to ratify CETA, having approved the deal Feb. 23. The vote in the Latvian parliament was 71-5 in favour.
And why not? The average annual wage in Latvia last year was about $10,230. With CETA making it possible for foreign corporations to import their own workforces, Latvian companies are now well positioned to bid on supply and services contracts in Canadian markets.
Once legal and regulatory details are finalized, possibly this spring, Canadian industrial construction and maintenance projects will be open for bidding to all 28 countries in the European Union.
Consider the fact that the average yearly wage in the EU is about $26,200 — about $5,000 less than wages in Canada. Canadian businesses and workers have much to be concerned about.
CETA is not just a trade agreement. Its goal is to integrate Canada’s economy with that of the European Union and its component states. Do we even know what that means?
When it comes to labour markets, it means more opportunities to replace Canadian workers with foreign ones. We have already seen far too much abuse of the Temporary Foreign Workers program, where Canadians were replaced with lower-paid foreign workers. Under CETA, regulations that ensure no Canadians are available before foreign workers are hired will be illegal.
Big corporations will be able to blatantly import entire workforces from low-wage countries in Europe, where workers earn as little as $6,500 a year.
In certain industries, like oil and natural gas, this could literally spell disaster. A 2007 accident in Alberta killed two and seriously injured five workers when the oil storage tank they were building collapsed. The workers were Chinese tradespeople who had been hired by the Shanghai-based engineering firm that supervised the project. They spoke no English and were unqualified for the work they were doing.
It was at least fortunate that the facility was not in operation at the time. If an accident had happened during a maintenance operation on a refinery, for instance, there would be huge potential for injury not only to workers, but to people living in surrounding areas.
How can we ensure that under CETA, foreign workers are supplementing, rather than replacing, Canadian workers? And how can we ensure that when foreign workers are brought in to work on large projects, they have the same wages, rights and working conditions as Canadians? CETA contains no regulations to ensure this.
The agreement contains plenty of provisions to provide binding settlements to investors who think they’ve been wronged in their dealings with Canada. But there is no enforcement mechanism or even a dispute settlement body with any teeth for workers.
CETA is a poor deal. It lacks protections for workers and wages. It is risky for jobs and the environment. It lets corporations sue governments through a private justice system. It’s just not good enough for Canada.
But while CETA appears to be unstoppable, there are other trade deals on the horizon, including murmurs of Asian pacts to replace the now-dead Trans Pacific Partnership and the renegotiation of NAFTA.
Canadians must be on our guard, or wake up one day to find huge pieces of our economy have been given away to foreign corporations.