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This Is What A NAFTA-Fuelled Race To The Bottom Looks Like

If you want to see what a NAFTA-caused race to the bottom looks like, go to Ingersoll, Ont.

In that picturesque town west of Toronto, workers at the CAMI automotive plant are on strike over a reasonable proposal that their employer, General Motors of Canada, refuses to accept — enhanced job security language.

Like workers across Canada, they just want to know that their livelihoods, the stability of their communities and the prospect of a decent future for their children will not be lost to cheaper labour made available by trade deals that failed to take these needs into full consideration.

A worker driving a GMC Terrain leaves the General Motors CAMI car assembly plant where the GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox are built, in Ingersoll, Ont., on Jan. 27, 2017.

The members of Unifor Local 88 have asked General Motors for assurance that the plant, which has won many awards for the quality of their work, will continue to be the lead producer of the top-selling Equinox for the duration of their new collective agreement.

This is a live and very real issue that reveals the significant flaws in NAFTA. Just weeks ago, workers at the Ingersoll plant saw production of the Terrain move to Mexico, resulting in some 600 layoffs of good unionized jobs.

The Equinox, now the only vehicle assembled at CAMI, is also produced in Mexico. The 2,500 workers at the plant aren’t asking that the vehicle only be made in Ingersoll, and nowhere else — simply that they remain the lead plant.

This is a town where the community knows how important the CAMI plant is to their economic viability.

It is not an unreasonable request. Drive along Ingersoll Street South, where the CAMI plant is located, and you’ll see plant after plant where workers are employed making parts and providing logistical support for CAMI.

Drive around the corner, and you’ll see a Tim Hortons where managers have been known to call the union hall asking whether there’s an extra shift on at the plant, so they know how many workers they’ll need to fill demand.

In short, this is a town where the community knows how important the CAMI plant is to their economic viability.

Workers install parts into a GMC Terrain vehicle at the CAMI Automotive Inc. plant assembly line in Ingersoll, Ont. Nov. 9, 2009.

“[The strike] affects everyone,” Lori Perkins, who works at a plant across the street that supplies CAMI, told the CBC. “From our fast food people to our grocery store to what we can afford. It affects everybody.”

As Canadian, Mexican and American negotiators gather in Ottawa this weekend to begin the third round of talks toward a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement, the problems with the deal identified by the labour movement over the years are playing out right now in Ingersoll.

Such deals are written to serve the needs of big companies and corporate investors. Workers, such as those walking a picket line right now, were supposed to benefit when businesses do well.

It’s time for workers, the 99 per cent, to get a fair share.

It simply hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, we’ve seen manufacturing leave Canada for places such as Mexico. Trade deals such as NAFTA that contain no direct measures to meet the needs of workers only encourage companies to move jobs to wherever they can get the work done most cheaply.

The case was even made when NAFTA was first coming into effect that the deal would lift Mexican workers out of poverty. This has not happened, either. In fact, despite nine of 11 new car plants in the last five years going to Mexico, poverty has remained unmoved since NAFTA came into place. With a 65-cent-per-hour minimum wage (80 pesos a day), Mexican workers can’t even afford to buy the cars built in the country.

Workers in Canada and the U.S. have not benefited from NAFTA. Mexican workers have not benefited, either. Only the corporations have benefited, because the deal was written with a corporate lens to line the pockets of the rich, and that must change. It’s time for workers, the 99 per cent, to get a fair share.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign affairs minister, speaks during a news conference after testifying before the Standing Committee on International Trade in Ottawa on Aug. 14, 2017.

This weekend, with the third round of talks kicking off to renegotiate NAFTA, there is a chance to fix the inequities and misplaced priorities of the original trade deal.

Progressive voices warned a generation ago that NAFTA, and similar trade agreements that followed, would hurt working people. We were right.

Before another generation goes by, it is imperative that we — you, me, trade unions, progressive organizations and community groups — come together to make a clear demand on our governmentfix NAFTA and make the needs of all workers — Canadian, Mexican and American — the top priority.

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B.C. Liberals Asked Oil And Gas Industry To Tweak Climate Plan, Docs Show

British Columbia's Premier Christy Clark speaks to the media in Vancouver on May 30, 2017.

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s former Liberal government asked oil and gas corporations to “refine” the language of recommendations made by an advisory panel before it finalized its Climate Leadership Plan, documents show.

Meeting agendas and presentations obtained under freedom-of-information legislation by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives provide insight into the extent of industry consultation on the plan.

The government-appointed Climate Leadership Team released recommendations in the fall of 2015 that included increasing the carbon tax rate and moving up the timeline to reduce emissions.

None of the recommendations were fully adopted by the government when it released the plan in August 2016.

The documents show that after the climate team released its proposals, the Ministry of Natural Gas arranged meetings with companies and industry groups at the Calgary office of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in January and February 2016.

Three working groups made up of industry members and government officials were created to tackle three distinct issues: the carbon tax; methane and fugitive emissions; and electrification.

The documents say the methane and electrification working groups were instructed to “refine the language” of the related Climate Leadership Team recommendations, while the carbon tax working group was tasked with determining “the art of the possible (how much and how fast).”

Meetings not disclosed until now

While the government said at the time it would consult with industry, these meetings have only now been made public, and only after many freedom-of-information requests, said Shannon Daub, associate director of the CCPA’s office in British Columbia.

“They should have been far more transparent about what they were doing,” she said.

The government’s Climate Leadership Team was appointed in spring 2015 and included First Nations, environmental groups, climate scientists and industry representatives. It spent months working before releasing 32 recommendations in November 2015.

They should have been far more transparent about what they were doing.Shannon Daub

Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith, who sat on the team, said she was surprised and disappointed to see how government consulted with the oil and gas industry.

“It’s the government’s responsibility to design good climate policy, good energy policy that has the best interests of British Columbians in mind,” she said.

“They abdicated that responsibility by basically asking one sector, the oil and gas sector, to rewrite the recommendations that were given to them by their own team of experts.”

Industry didn’t have final say: exec

Brad Herald, vice-president of Western Canada operations at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the industry had no final say over the substance or language of the climate plan.

“They were seeking input from us. We offered that input, the same as we do in many other forums as the regulated community. Ultimately, they were the decision-makers in the space as they were with the Climate Leadership Team.”

Former Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman said the consultations ensured the plan would meet B.C.’s greenhouse gas reduction targets while maintaining strong economic growth. The meetings were not intended to be secretive, he added.

“Our folks who were responsible for climate action were sent out to consult with everybody, including the petroleum industry, plus forestry and all the rest,” he said.

Former minister of natural gas development Rich Coleman speaks to media on Feb. 15, 2017 in Victoria.

Environment Minister George Heyman said his government will announce in the next five to six weeks a new team of stakeholders to review the recommendations of the Climate Leadership Team and how to bring them forward.

The new NDP government intends to set emissions targets for 2030 and benchmarks for the transportation and building industries, he said.

The documents list over two dozen representatives from at least 16 corporations and industry groups who attended the Calgary meetings, including Shell, Suncor and Chevron. Shell referred questions to CAPP while Suncor did not respond to requests for comment.

Chevron said it participated in a January 2016 session to gather feedback on “draft recommendations” of the Climate Leadership Team.

“Chevron supports broad consultation on significant policy issues such as this and believes it appropriate that industry be consulted in helping the B.C. government achieve its emissions targets,” it said in a statement.

CCPA also submitted FOI requests for meeting minutes and summaries but none were released.

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