For immediate release February 9, 2010
Back room deals bad for Saskatchewan
The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour today denounced the provincial government’s agreement to sign onto the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement.
It has been reported that all 10 provinces have agreed to sign the WTO agreement, which will restrict the ability of provincial and municipal governments to support domestic firms employing Canadian workers when they procure goods and services. In return, Canadian businesses will receive a limited exemption from Buy American provisions in the US stimulus spending package.
“Mr. Harper calls it a “breakthrough deal”, but we fail to see why. It is widely accepted that Canadian businesses would only have potential access to a very limited amount of funding delivered under only the current U.S. stimulus program. The Americans have not agreed to permanent access of any kind and most of the money has already been spoken for. What kind of deal is that?” said SFL President Larry Hubich.
“We are very concerned that the Harper government and the Wall government have signed away local government’s ability to tailor their hiring and purchasing to local workers and companies. Local procurement policies can be a powerful tool for ensuring that taxpayer money is spent in ways that aid local job creation and support Saskatchewan companies. Why would we sign away our ability to build a stable and strong Saskatchewan economy?” added Hubich.
“As we often see with these kind of quick and dirty trade deals, they take place with no public oversight or legislative scrutiny. Neither the Harper nor the Wall government consulted citizens before making this deal, yet citizens and local businesses will be the ones to suffer when contracts go to giant American corporations,” said Gary Schoenfeldt, chair of the SFL Trade Committee.
“Saskatchewan and Canada have permanently opened up our local markets to the Americans, likely in preparation for a trade deal with the European Union as well, and in return the Americans have agreed to throw a few crumbs our way. Who benefits from this deal? It looks like the multinational corporations are the big winners, who can afford to come into local communities and undercut local mom and pop operations. Who loses? Regular taxpayers and wage-earners, local businesses, and democracy,” added Schoenfeldt.
“The Saskatchewan economy was built around three pillars: a thriving cooperative sector, private sector innovation, and a strong public sector including our Crown Corporations. This balanced approach to the economy works for a province like ours, and has helped us weather the latest economic storm. The provincial government should strengthen these pillars, rather than taking important instruments for a stable economy out of the hands of local governments,” said Hubich.
The SFL represents 95,000 unionized workers from 37 affiliated unions in Saskatchewan.
Download a pdf version of the news release here.