Courtenay council was the last of the three Comox Valley councils warned to be wary of the federally negotiated Canada-European Union trade agreement.
Alex Turner, on behalf of the Comox Valley Council of Canadians, spoke to council Monday, stressing that they should question what the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) could mean for municipal government “sovereignty,” as the agreement is being negotiated by the federal government.
“This is really about your soverign right; the ability to take your taxpayers’ dollars and spend them here if it your wish to do so,” said Turner.
“It has, I think, aspects to it that are very threatening to the ability of your council to take independent action.”
According to Turner, municipalities could be disallowed from restricting calls for tender to local or Canadian companies. He also said municipalities could have to prove that these companies were considered during the tendering process, and that companies not chosen could challenge the City’s decision in awarding a contract.
However, negotiations on the agreement, which started in 2009, are not complete.
Comox Valley MLA and Minister of Agriculture Don McRae said that he is only involved in CETA negotiations as far as ensuring agricultural concerns are passed along to federal negotiators.
But, he pointed out that negotiations are usually done in private and they aren’t over until they’re over.
“I think the reality is negotiations are never finished until they’re literally done, and if you negotiate in public you have an opportunity for people to be fearful,” said McRae.
According to the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website, negotiations are in the ninth round and are expected to wrap up this year.
Turner brought a draft motion to council, outlining a number of resolutions, including that the province negotiate a local government exemption from CETA.
Coun. Doug Hillian put the motion forward during the meeting. He said he wanted more information from the federal negotiators about what the agreement could mean for municipal government.
“The nature of these negotiations are carried on out of public scrutiny,” said Hillian. “We don’t have briefings or reports to municipal governments or other citizens that might be impacted, and therefore, I think we have to take a cautious approach.”
Coun. Bill Anglin said he wanted more research before voting on a motion. He also said the draft motion put forward was not asking the right people the questions, as the negotiations are federal and the resolution was directed towards the provincial government.
He made a motion to defer a vote for 30 days and have City staff research and make a motion more tailored to Courtenay council’s needs.
Cumberland council passed the motion when it heard the delegation, however, the Comox Valley Regional District and Comox council both deferred a decision until they have more information.