SASKATOON – The Liberal government isn’t sticking to a pledge to fully consult the public about a multi-nation trade deal, according to an advocate who organized a rally against the agreement Wednesday. Members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade held a public consultation in Saskatoon Wednesday morning on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
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However, a group of roughly four dozen who protested outside afterwards said the event didn’t go forward as billed.
“They decided to have a poorly publicized consultation on a weekday morning where only 12 people were permitted to speak, all of them representing special interests,” said Justin Fisher, who attended the event and organized the rally in front of the meeting location.
“If you’re travelling around the country to hear from people directly, than you should really make an effort to hear from people who want to speak to you.”
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The TPP is a 12-country agreement that includes Canada, the U.S. and Japan. Canada signed on in February, but has the next two years to ratify to the deal.
Opponents say the agreement was negotiated in secret and could lead to increased medicine costs and job losses. Those in support believe it will open up Canadian producers to advancing markets in Asia and eliminate trade barriers.
“We made a commitment to consult with Canadians and hear from the public,” said Ontario Liberal MP Peter Fonseca, in-between the morning’s sessions at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Saskatoon.
“We’ve made a commitment to go to every province in Canada, this is our third province that we’ve been to, and so we’re being as open, as accessible as we possibly can be.”
The 12 speakers Wednesday featured a mix of those who supported and were against the TPP. Fonseca added that the public can provide written submissions to the committee as well as contact their local MPs with any concerns.
Fisher said he hopes many people take the time to write in, however he added that only physically listening to 12 people wasn’t sufficient. He said “a lot of everyday folks applied to speak,” but didn’t make it on the 12-person list. At the rally, which occurred directly after the meeting, a microphone was set up to allow anyone to speak about their TPP concerns.
“This is a deal that affects everybody, it’s going to affect me and I happen to have things to say about it and I’d like to share that,” said Fisher.
Despite the show of dissent, committee member Gerry Ritz said he’s mostly heard support for the agreement during his travels across the country.
“Especially from the agricultural community, small business community, chambers of commerce, marketing groups, everybody agrees that trade is what drives our economy,” said Ritz, the Conservative MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster.