As the public anxiously awaits the U.S. State Department’s final decision on the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the discussion has largely ignored the elephant in the room: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.)
Thanks to NAFTA, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, the State Department will likely be able to do little more than stall the pipeline’s construction. In its simplest form, NAFTA removes barriers for North American countries wishing to do business in or through other North American countries, including environmental barriers. The goal of the agreement was to promote intra-continental commerce and help the economies of all involved in the agreement.
This past weekend trade investment lawyer, Gus Van Harten, spent his time in his basement, rifling through old files. He knew that somewhere, buried in piles of international investment and legal trade documents, there was the answer to this one nagging question he couldn't shake: hadn't British Columbia already refused an investor-state treaty like the China-Canada Investment Deal once before? And wasn't that rejection because the trade deal was 'unconstitutional?'
And there the answer to his question lay: in a 1998 special legislative reportBC published on the OCED's then-proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). In this document, a BC Special Committee outlines why an investor-state mechanism like MAI - which is essentially the same as the proposed China-Canada Investment Deal - is dangerous for provinces determined to protect their jurisdictional rights when it comes to governmental sovereignty, natural resources, First Nations, environmental protection and human and labour rights.
The legislative committee recommended that “when negotiating the MAI or any future investment treaty, the federal government must ensure that the agreement does not apply to matters within provincial jurisdiction, including local government measures, without the express consent of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia…If the federal government fails to provide for such consent, then the provincial government should explore all means, including legal action, to defend vigorously its own jurisdictional rights and those of local governments to represent the interests of British Columbians.”
According to this logic, British Columbians and all of our elected provincial officials should be up in arms over the proposed China deal.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.