The federal Greens would restructure Canada’s global trade relations if elected Monday, party leader Elizabeth May said Friday, arguing current agreements favour the rights of corporations at the expense of environmental protections.
“It’s time to look at the web of trade deals and investor-state agreements that have operated, and in my view operated illegally, against the way the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was initially negotiated,” May said at a campaign stop in Nanaimo, B.C.
“Those rights of trans-national corporations, of big oil, have superseded our ability to negotiate treaties that actually work to protect our climate.”
The party is particularly critical of investor-state agreements, which can include a dispute settlement mechanism that allows charges to be brought against a country hosting an investment by another country or investor.
Paul Manly, the Green candidate running for re-election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, said the mechanisms “give foreign multinationals the ability to seek financial compensation when the decisions of democratically elected governments get in the way of their profits.”
May acknowledged that renegotiating existing trade agreements will take time and co-operation, using the opportunity to take a jab at the New Democrats, whom her party has locked horns with multiple times during the campaign.
“Within the Parliament of Canada we should be able to count on the NDP because they say on paper that they are opposed to investor-state agreements,” May said. “But I’ve seen whipped votes by the NDP to force supporting agreements that include investor-state agreements.”
May also said changes to eliminate investor-state agreements were needed to protect deals like the Paris climate change accord that has no enforcement mechanisms. She blamed the situation on trade ministers being “more powerful than the environment ministers, and it sabotages our efforts.”
The party said Friday that restructuring agreements would include reducing the distances over which food is shipped by increasing domestic and local food production.
It would also ensure that products that are banned in Canada, such as bovine growth hormone in milk products, are not imported in food from other countries.
The Greens also promise to improve internal trade between provinces.
May also said the World Trade Organization should be rebranded as the World Trade and Climate Organization, and that trade agreements focused on protecting the climate should be able to use trade sanctions as a tool of enforcement.
May, campaigning on Vancouver Island for a second straight day, outlined the Greens’ affordability plans later Friday in the Greater Victoria municipality of Saanich.
She said the Greens would make housing a legally protected right for Canadians and permanent residents.
“Affordable housing is a fundamental human right,” May said. “A Green government will build 25,000 new affordable housing units and refurbish 15,000 more, annually for the next 10 years.
“We also have additional funding, changes in legislation and changes in the way homes will be financed. And we will re-introduce proven tax incentives to support construction of rental housing.”
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