B.C. Liberals bully and sneak through motion
supporting proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership
By John Twigg
The B.C. Legislature today (Thursday April 14) voted 40 to 26 on a motion expressing the province's support for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership even though there have been no public hearings on the complex and contentious trade deal, and despite an amendment by the New Democrats appealing for public hearings before such a vote.
Motion 11 was put on the Order Paper last October around the time of the federal election but was not introduced and called for debate until Premier Christy Clark somewhat suddenly did so on Wednesday (April 13) after Question Period, with the timing obviously related to exploiting the backlash against the federal New Democrats' convention in Edmonton having approved a call for party and public consultations on the so-called Leap Manifesto, an environmental initiative which contains numerous radical proposals against petroleum and pipeline developments in particular and industrial developments and job creation in general, apart from new "green" ones.
My recent analysis of that Leap Manifesto debate can be viewed here .
Clark's motion said:
Be it resolved that this House, acknowledging the importance of diversifying trade to create jobs for British Columbians, supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership because: the Trans-Pacific Partnership removes trade barriers and provides preferential market access for B.C. goods and services from all sectors including forest products, agrifoods, technology, fish and seafood, minerals and industrial goods, and through the transition support will be available to our supply-managed industries; the Trans-Pacific Partnership provides more access for service providers in professional, environmental, and research and development fields; and, ultimately, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will increase investment and create new jobs and opportunities for many British Columbians.
That motion was quickly amended by NDP Opposition leader John Horgan with the suggestion that the Legislature's finance committee have a "robust and transparent discussion and public consultation" on the matter, which said:
That Motion 11 be amended by deleting the text after, “Be it resolved that this House, acknowledging the importance of diversifying trade to create jobs for British Columbians, supports” and substituting, “referral to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for robust and transparent discussion and public consultation on the long-term job creation and employment impacts for British Columbia of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
However the NDP amendment was defeated by a vote of 42 to 33 later on Wednesday afternoon after only a few speakers had spoken, suggesting that the New Democrats either were not prepared to filibuster against it and/or were strategically avoiding a prolonged fractious debate which would have caused themselves to become even more linked to the anti-jobs Leap Manifesto on which both Horgan and deputy leader Carole James had been excoriated over it at a B.C. Building Trades convention in Victoria (see Globe and Mail report here and Vaughn Palmer here ).
Debate on the main motion was adjourned at 7 p.m. Wednesday but when it resumed Thursday morning after Question Period it continued only until just before noon, at which point the Opposition (including Green Party leader Andrew Weaver) let the final vote be taken, with the result being 40 for the government versus 26 for the Opposition (including Weaver) but Clark and Independent MLA Vicki Huntington were away as were about 20 other MLAs.
Health emergency smokescreen?To further smokescreen the somewhat sneaky, bullied and flawed TPP motion the Liberal government also chose today to announce a health emergency regarding a skein of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl, which obviously is a serious problem but which also has already been in the news for several weeks and the preparations for the declaration apparently were in the works for several days.
Why would the Clark government want to smokescreen something supposedly as great as they claim the TPP is? Because it isn't great and actually it could become disastrous, maybe even worse than a few dozen drug deaths, because it could kill whole industries forever. Not to mention that the Liberals get many large donations from corporations that would benefit from the TPP.
The few New Democrats who spoke against the motion and thus against the TPP too did a decent job of exposing some of the TPP's alleged flaws (except Horgan, who gave short shrift and departed) such as noting that it deals with the United States and several Asian "tigers" but does not include China and may well be an American device to isolate China.
The gist is that the TPP will benefit mainly foreign interests doing developments in B.C., notably that they will be able to out-litigate local governments and regional districts on zoning issues, it will tend to encourage the export of jobs to low-wage jurisdictions [the same problem that Donald Trump is fighting and gaining huge support from in the U.S. Presidential primaries] and it generally would make Canada a safer haven for foreign capital and a tougher place for unionized and low-wage workers.
Weaver delivered key critiquesInstead it fell to Weaver to give a more detailed critique, which he did on the amendment Wednesday and the main motion Thursday, claiming it is "a cynical ploy to try to pin the NDP in British Columbia to their federal counterparts who enacted a study for two years about the Leap Manifesto."
"In conclusion, this deal is a bad deal for British Columbia. This deal is a bad deal for Canadians. This motion should not pass. This government should be ashamed of itself for bringing this cynical motion forward at a time when they hadn't even got the agreement to actually explore the details of," said Weaver.
Links to preliminary Hansard transcripts April 13 here and today's April 14 here .
Premier Clark and other defenders such as the former federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper argue that the TPP will improve access to foreign markets for B.C. products such as seafood and resources but what the overall net effect would be is difficult to determine, and which may or may not be revealed in whatever public consultations process the new federal Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau eventually mandates pursuant to its recent preliminary sign-on to the document in principle.
What will the TPP do to or for marketing boards? That isn't clear yet.
What will it do to intellectual property, copyrights and technology industries? That isn't clear either, though Weaver - an accomplished academic - believes it will be negative.
But what is clear is that it's a tough issue for the B.C. New Democrats, kind of damned if they do and damned if they don't, and the radical Leap Manifesto only makes that problem worse.
It also could be a good issue for the Clark Liberals, positioning them on the side supporting investment, job creation and exports even if or when the net benefits are negative over time. What matters to them most of all is the outcome of the next election in May 2017.
Hansard Blues excerpt April 13
MOTION 11 — TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP
Hon. C. Clark: I rise today to move a motion in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a motion that asks and urges the federal government to implement it.
There are voices across this country today — we hear them loudly and clearly — that say no to all economic development. They say no to creating jobs for working people. They say no to deals like TPP. In the name of ideology, they claim that it's time to dismantle our economic foundation. But what they are really saying is no to working people, and they're saying no to jobs. If those voices had their way, this would be the first generation of British Columbians that left this province poorer than we found it.
I know that we can always do better. We always must strive as a government, and as a society, to do better. But the answer isn't to disrupt the free flow of ideas and the free flow of capital. It isn't to disrupt innovation and all of those things that happen in a functioning, capitalist system, where trade deals mean jobs.
In British Columbia, we know that international trade is the foundation of our prosperity. International trade is what creates jobs for people across our province, and it always has been. We are Canada's Pacific gateway, and our future is linked more that any other province in the country with what's going on in Asia.
For over ten years, we have focused on expanding our trade and investment ties in Asia, and it's worked. The results are clear. We have seen more opportunities, we have seen more wealth, and we have seen more jobs in every corner of this province — 72,000 jobs created over the last 12 months in British Columbia.
We are number one in economic growth in Canada, and that's as a result of the visionary work that the private sector and government have done together in opening up new markets, diversifying our customer base, diversifying the products that we sell to them. Whether it's sawmills or software, mining or medical technology, we benefit from trade. When I say we, I mean workers and families in British Columbia.
There are benefits to trade on both sides. We export clean technology to China. China uses that clean technology to make sure that they have less pollution, that they fight climate change — the same with Korea, the same with Japan, the same with countries around the world. The TPP is another great step
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to trade on both sides. We export clean technology to China. China uses that clean technology to make sure that they have less pollution, that they fight climate change — the same with Korea; the same with Japan; the same with countries around the world.
The TPP is another great step in the right direction for us — a level playing field for a market of 800 million people, a total GDP of $28 trillion, a $235 million boost to British Columbia's GDP, and thousands of jobs that go with that.
We know what happens when provinces rely too much on a single industry. We've avoided that in British Columbia by creating one of the of the most diversified economies in North America. And we know what happens when provinces and jurisdictions rely on just one trading partner. We've also focused on making sure that we diversify our markets. We know what happens when governments focus on growing the size of government, rather than growing the size of the economy.
We need to create jobs in British Columbia. We need to continue along that path if we want to leave our children richer than even we have been. British Columbia and Canada need to keep moving forward. We don't need to move backward. So let's encourage Ottawa to do its consultations, as they promised in their platform. Let's let them hear from Canadians. But at the end of that process, let's encourage them and urge them to move quickly on passing TPP, because it will be great for workers in British Columbia.
With that in mind, I introduce the following motion:
[Be it resolved that this House, acknowledging the importance of diversifying trade to create jobs for British Columbians, supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership because: the Trans-Pacific Partnership removes trade barriers and provides preferential market access for B.C. goods and services from all sectors including forest products, agrifoods, technology, fish and seafood, minerals and industrial goods, and through the transition support will be available to our supply-managed industries; the Trans-Pacific Partnership provides more access for service providers in professional, environmental, and research and development fields; and, ultimately, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will increase investment and create new jobs and opportunities for many British Columbians.]
J. Horgan: Once again, the Premier has called her motion today, absolutely convinced that she knows best. In this case, it's the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
The CEO of Ford of Canada has said: "There will be no positive outcome for Canadian manufacturing." But the Premier knows best. The former CEO of BlackBerry Canada said: "I actually think this is the worst thing that the Harper government has done for Canada." But the Premier knows best. The CEO of an investor in a B.C. tech start-up said: "Potentially dangerous for several innovative-driven sectors such as tech." But again the Premier knows best.
A Nobel Prize–winning economist has said: "The deal was done in secret, and with corporate interests at the table." Again the Premier knows best — which perhaps explains why the Premier is so comfortable with this. It's because there is an expert whose opinion she values more than all of these others, who said: "Ten years from now, I predict with 100 percent certainty" — 100 percent certainty — "that people are looking back, and they will say: 'This was a great thing.'"
The Premier supports that. That, of course, was Stephen Harper who said that some time ago. You might remember Stephen Harper. He was the Prime Minister of Canada. The public responded to his certainty by dispatching him to the opposition benches, and I expect that that may well happen to the Premier as well. But the Premier knows best — 100,000 jobs in LNG. Focusing all of her energies on one sector, the Premier knew best. "Debt-free in British Columbia" — the Premier knew best. A $100 billion….
Madame Speaker: Members.
J. Horgan: Thank you, hon. Speaker.
The Premier specializes in 100 percent certainty. That's how she rolls. That's why we have a dead-in-the-air prosperity fund that's being now populated by increases to MSP premiums, not
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J. Horgan: Thank you, hon. Speaker.
The Premier specializes in 100 percent certainty. That's how she rolls, and that's why we have a dead-in-the-air prosperity fund that's being now populated by increases to MSP premiums, not by revenues from LNG but from increased costs year after year after year that have been brought in by this government. Stephen Harper got his feedback on the TPP, and it was pretty clear.
On Monday in this province, the new federal government will be in Vancouver as part of their public consultation with Canadians to hear what we think about this important issue — what regular people think about this important issue. Regular people — people that the Premier doesn't spend having dinners at $10,000 a pop — ordinary folks. They're going to have their say, and it would be nice if the Premier agreed with that.
Madame Speaker: Members.
J. Horgan: Again, the Premier is going to leave that to the federal government. She is absolutely certain that she knows best about how we're going to grow our economy. I've seen that from her for the past five years. [Applause.]
I see almost all the seals are here today, and that was a resounding blast from those on the other side.
Madame Speaker: Hon. members, parliamentary debate is characterized by moderation.
J. Horgan: If the Premier wants to carry forward her 100 percent certainty that she knows best and that this is in the public interest, I'm proposing that she take the opportunity to actually ask the public what they think — not to come out of her private meetings and say: "This is going to be grand for everyone."
I'm hopeful that she'll support the following motion. I will move:
[That Motion 11 be amended by deleting the text after, “Be it resolved that this House, acknowledging the importance of diversifying trade to create jobs for British Columbians, supports” and substituting, “referral to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for robust and transparent discussion and public consultation on the long-term job creation and employment impacts for British Columbia of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”]
On the amendment.
J. Horgan: The motion speaks for itself. The federal government, as I said, is going to be here on Monday. They're having open hearings. They're going to talk to British Columbians to see how they feel about the TPP and whether it's going to be in the best interests of their sectors, of their communities, of their jobs.
The federal government understands that people have concerns and questions, and they need to be addressed. The certainty that the Premier has is not shared by the new government in Ottawa. They're going to go out and consult and talk to the people of British Columbia, the people of Alberta — right across the country — and that's as it should be.
A confident government would ask the people what they thought. A confident government would not just say: "I know best." A confident government would say to people: "What are your views? What do you think? I appreciate we've been here languishing on the government side for 15 years doing whatever the heck we want, but now we've decided we want to talk to you. We want to talk to you about how you feel about this motion."
When this motion was moved, I had a hope that the Premier would recognize that this was an opportunity for her and her colleagues to say to British Columbians: "We care about what you think. We care about your concern that other trade deals in the past have had a negative impact on job creation and a negative impact on their jobs."
B.C. is a trading province. We all understand that. There's great hope and potential and opportunity across the Pacific Ocean. I agree with that statement. But I'm not necessarily convinced that the CEOs, who sit down with the Premier and tell her that she should be 100 percent certain that it's in their interests, are speaking for the people of British Columbia.
With that, I'm hopeful that other members of this House will support this amendment and join with me in saying that the people in B.C. should have a say in the TPP, not just the Premier and the people she dines with.